No, the Old Faithful geyser didn’t move to the intersection of Bridge and Main streets in Cambria about 7:05 p.m. Wednesday, April 29, but it sure looked that way for about 15 minutes.
According to witnesses, a private bus apparently hit a fire hydrant, causing water to gush up onto the street and sidewalk.
Doug and Janet Brisbane of Cambria were at the Sow’s Ear restaurant when they saw incident.
“We had the waitress call the fire station,” Doug Brisbane said, adding that emergency crews responded quickly and shut off the flow.
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Justin Smith, who heads up the Cambria Community Services District’s water department, estimated the water loss at “no more than 32,000 gallons” during the 16-minute deluge.
CCSD water operator Ben Grosskreutz shut off the water. Local contractor Bob Wright had called Grosskreutz directly to report the situation. Wright then immediately waded into the geyser to remove the lid on the hydrant’s valve can, he said.
The water pressure was so strong it knocked off Wright’s sunglasses, which he was able to retrieve later from Fire Chief Mark Miller.
In Wright’s work, he said, “I raise valve cans all the time, so I knew exactly what had to be done. It was a reflex. It didn’t matter about wet clothes.”
Various other Cambrians saw the incident and its aftermath, and some filmed it. Gerry Main took photos and video. The latter is posted at www.youtube.com/ watch?v=7di1JdK37Ok.
Fire Capt. Bill Hollingsworth was on the call. He said later that modernized equipment helped to reduce the water loss and infrastructure damage.
“Years ago, if you hit a hydrant, the impact could break the couplings underground. Now, with breakaway collars, a hit hydrant just shears off. It’s way faster to turn off the water and replace the hydrant than it is to replace the underground infrastructure.”