New Law Requires Owners to Clear Snow and Ice from Fire Hydrants

In early December, Mayor De Blasio signed Local Law 149 clarifying that owners have to clear snow from the area around fire hydrants at the same time they have to clear sidewalks. Specifically, the law allows the Department of Sanitation to issue violations to owners for failing to remove the snow and ice that accumulates on a fire hydrant. This is a slight yet important change from the prior requirement that owners keep snow and materials from accumulating near fire hydrants fronting their property.

The law’s goal is to provide city firefighters access to the fire hydrants during a fire emergency and the ability to locate a hydrant following a significant snowfall that often buries the hydrant from sight. In his statement in support of the bill, Councilmember Andy King cited a fire that broke out in January 2016 in Hell’s Kitchen. At the time the firefighters had to deal with mounds of snow on the sidewalks and the first unit on the scene couldn’t see the fire hydrants on the side of the street where the fire was located. The apartments and store fronts were burnt down due to the time lost uncovering the fire hydrants, stated King.

The language of the law defines the area needing to be cleared to include the fire hydrant itself. It also clarifies that owners are not required to actively clear snow and other material from the street itself. Owners or other persons having charge of a building or lot of ground in the city that abuts a sidewalk must remove snow, ice, and dirt from fire hydrants on that sidewalk within four hours after a snowfall.

The law also makes the penalties for failing to clear snow from that area consistent with the penalties for failing to clear snow from a sidewalk. It removes the criminal penalties for failing to remove snow from sidewalks.