Vandals warned not to tamper with fire hydrants as issues seen in Manchester and Liverpool last night

19 Jul 2022

As United Utilities works around the clock to ensure there is enough water to meet soaring demand during the hot weather, vandals are adding to the drain on resources by tampering with fire hydrants and abusing engineers.

On nearly every street there’s a fire hydrant – a kind of special tap to allow emergency access to water supplies.

As the North West continues to swelter in the heat wave, the water company is seeing an increase in hydrants being damaged.

Last night [Monday 18 July] in both Huyton and Miles Platting, people set off fire hydrants. The sudden loss of large volumes of water resulted in some homes in the area, on one of the hottest nights on record, having no water, or it was discoloured when they ran the tap.

By tampering with them and letting water out of the system, the vandals are not only wasting water, but potentially putting lives at risk. The loss of water also causes poor pressure in the system, meaning customers nearby may struggle to keep their taps flowing.

As the North West continues to swelter in the heat wave, the water company is seeing an increase in hydrants being damaged and is calling on children, young adults, parents and the wider community to help spread the word about this type of anti-social behaviour and the problems it can cause.

Phil Sweeney, Head of Central Operations at United Utilities, said: “Fire hydrant abuse is not harmless fun – it is dangerous, costly, and an incredible waste of water, especially during times of high demand.

“Those who vandalise hydrants are not only putting themselves at risk of injury from highly pressurised water, they are also impacting our ability to keep water flowing to homes, businesses, hospitals and vulnerable customers.

“Ultimately, this type of abuse could impact on the fire service’s ability to tackle a blaze, whether at a property or on moorland, and put lives at risk.”

Huyton local policing Inspector Mark Berry said: “This type of selfish and irresponsible behaviour will not be tolerated.

“Access to water supplies is essential, particularly during the current spell of very hot weather, and this sort of behaviour, whilst it may seem fun to some, has a direct impact on other people, including the elderly and those with young children and babies.

“Damaging and letting off hydrants may also impact on fire crews being able to access essential water to tackle fires and could have far reaching consequences.

“In addition abusing workers and emergency services who attend to deal with the incidents is clearly unacceptable and such behaviour will be dealt with.

“I would encourage anyone who witnesses damage being caused to fire hydrants to DM @MerPolCC or call 101. Information can also be passed on to @CrimestoppersUK on 0800 555 111.”

Ben Levy, Area Manager at Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service, said: “Fire hydrants ensure that the fire and rescue service have access to water in emergencies. Damaging them is not only dangerous and irresponsible, but the consequences can be extremely harmful, putting lives at risk.

“Our Safe4Summer campaign works with partners to tackle anti-social behaviour and keep young people safe over summer. I would encourage parents and carers to speak to the young people in their lives about the risks and consequences of anti-social behaviour.”

In addition to the immediate risks and loss of water, the problem is compounded because engineers often cannot safely get to the hydrant to turn it off with people staying in the area to cause further disruption, and even physical harm.

“Phil Sweeney added: “Our teams, and the fire service and police, should be able to do their jobs safely, but when attending these incidents they often find themselves facing verbal and physical abuse. This means we have to wait for crowds to disperse before shutting off the hydrant, meaning a longer impact for customers.”

Work is continually taking place to make hydrant covers more secure but communities can play their part too by treating hydrant abuse as anti-social behaviour rather than a bit of harmless fun. Witnesses can report incidents to the police by calling 101.