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San Luis Obispo firefighter gets drenched trying to turn off water from broken hydrant

Firefighter Nathan Williams works to close off a broken fire hydrant in the 700 block of Lawrence Street on Dec. 12.
Firefighter Nathan Williams works to close off a broken fire hydrant in the 700 block of Lawrence Street on Dec. 12.

There’s nothing like being the new guy.

The San Luis Obispo Fire Department got a report of a “leaking” fire hydrant in the 700 block of Lawrence Avenue around 2 p.m. Saturday. When the chief went to check it out, he found a geyser shooting 1,000 gallons of water per minute in the air, and the fire hydrant lying in the street.

The chief called for a fire truck and more firefighters. Nathan Williams, one of the department’s newest firefighters, was on board.

“He pulled the short straw, so to speak,” said Capt. Jeff Gater. “Well, really, he didn’t have much of a choice.”

For nearly 20 minutes, Williams had to slowly turn off the water. If done too quickly, it could have damaged the rest of the water system.

It was also pouring rain and very windy that day. And the wind was blowing the column of water right into Williams.

Throughout the ordeal, Gater said, Williams was a trooper.

“He didn’t say a word,” Gater said. “The rest of us sat off to the side and laughed as hard as we could. It was so ridiculous how much water he was getting hammered with.”

The incident did provide Williams with good training, Gater added.

Jack Hindmarsh, who lives in the neighborhood, came out with his camera and took the photos of Williams turning off the water.

Although they don’t know for sure how the hydrant broke, it’s assumed that the bolts holding it to the ground were so rusted and corroded that they just popped off, Gater said. If a vehicle had hit it, there would have probably been obvious damage on the hydrant.



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