Water district locks hydrants, but fire dept. wasn't told

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by ERIC WILKINSON / KING 5 News

KING5.com

Posted on August 3, 2010 at 2:02 PM

Updated Tuesday, Aug 3 at 5:41 PM

BELFAIR, Wash. - Someone is stealing millions of gallons of water from the Belfair water district, so the man in charge has reportedly been locking up fire hydrants.

The problem is, nobody told the fire department.

The Belfair Water District is reportedly losing some 5 million gallons of water a year to misuse, theft and leaks. That's about 10 percent of the district's total. Authorities believe contractors may be tapping into fire hydrants to steal water for construction projects.

Belfair Water District Manager Dave Tipton felt he had to put a stop to it. He reportedly directed his crews to place padlocks on the 50 or so hydrants in the district to keep people from illegally hooking up and draining the public supply.

"We didn't know anything about it," says District 2 Fire Chief Beau Baaken. "I found out because one of my guys saw someone locking up a hydrant and he came and told me."

Firefighters now know about the situation and carry bolt cutters, but Baaken is worried about delays the locks could cause.

"I'm very concerned about the time it will take us to remove those locks. It's one extra step that we have to take when lives are at risk," said Baaken, who wants the locks off. "There are other alternatives to this."

Tipton did not immediately return calls to KING 5 News for comment on the issue.

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