According to the Milwaukee Fire Department, the simple task of shoveling out your street's fire hydrant could prevent disaster this winter.
It's a warning neighbors hear from firefighters every year when temperatures drop and snow arrives.
Milwaukee Fire Lt. Mike Ball said firefighters will never turn down a call because they arrive to find a hydrant snow-covered.
But, he said one firefighter from the four-person crew that staffs a fire rig has to dig the hydrant out. Ball said the time that takes could have been spent fighting the flames or helping get people out of a building safely.
On Thursday, TODAY'S TMJ4 wanted to find out how long it takes to shovel out a buried fire hydrant.
Milwaukee firefighter Adrian Roberson was able to clear a hydrant on the East Side in about 40 seconds.
That essentially doubled the time Roberson would have to spend at the hydrant had he been on an actual fire call. The process of opening up the hydrant and flushing out the dirty water so that a hose can be connected also took 40 seconds.
Ball said a fire can spread significantly in 40 seconds.
"Every second counts," he said.
Ball and several firefighters spent part of the afternoon Thursday visiting homes in Milwaukee neighborhoods where the hydrants had been cleaned.
Ball presented those who shoveled out the hydrants with gift bags.
"We just want to take a moment to say thank you," Ball told one homeowner.
He said shoveling out a fire hydrant, while it might seem like a small task, keeps all nearby homeowners safe.
"You're really protecting everybody on the street - on both sides of the street - when you do that," Ball said.