Neighbor's hydrant use can be legal

A contract firefighter lives in my east Medford neighborhood and he often drives his big wildland fire truck home. Occasionally, I've seen him parked and his truck hooked up to a fire hydrant, sucking water from the hydrant into his tank.

— Mary M., Medford

What you have witnessed, Mary, is either a unique but legal way for the Medford Water Commission to quell a thirsty customer or a simple theft of services.

Ken Johnson, who is the water commission's operations superintendent, says the commission has a program in which it sells water to contractors who collect it from one of several hydrants around town.

The contractor pays a $40 fee that gets them a valve and back-flow device to tap into hydrants without risking any contamination to the water supply, Johnson says. Then, for $10 a day, the contractor can pump as much water as he or she needs, he says.

If your neighbor isn't signed up through the Water Commission and has not paid the fee, then taking water from the hydrant would entail a potential theft-of-services citation, Johnson says.

The only way to be sure is to call the water commission at 774-2430 to see whether your neighbor is a water thief.

The commission gets calls periodically from people just like you asking about hydrant use, Johnson says.

Send questions to "Since You Asked," Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by e-mail to We're sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.

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