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open fire hydrant

In this file photo from July 9, 2020, someone cools off in the water from an open fire hydrant in Bridgeport on the South Side.

Ashlee Rezin Garcia

Hundreds of Chicagoans opened fire hydrants for relief from this week’s heat

As the heat index soared as high as 118 degrees this week, Chicagoans opened fire hydrants to beat the heat. According to records of Chicago’s 311 calls, there were 341 complaints of open fire hydrants on Wednesday and 551 complaints on Thursday — the highest number of such complaints on any given day since 2019.

And both figures were far more than this summer’s average of 57 reports per day.

During the two-day heatwave, the highest number of reports of open fire hydrants came from the New City and South Lawndale community areas, which include the Back of the Yards and Little Village neighborhoods, respectively. Each community area logged more than 100 calls over the two days. Humboldt Park and Chicago Lawn followed with totals of 82 and 79 reports, respectively.

The city overall saw more than a 700% increase in open hydrant reports on Thursday compared to Tuesday, when temperatures were lower.

Opening hydrants into the street is a popular summer tradition in Chicago and many other cities.

Chicago Fire Department officials complain every year about all the repairs necessary to keep fire hydrants up and running, and city officials say open hydrants can lead to poor water pressure on the block.

According to a review of 311 calls, there were 21 low water pressure complaints recorded on Thursday, which is more than usual. But those calls were fairly evenly distributed throughout the city, not just in the neighborhoods where a higher volume of the open hydrants were reported.

Spray parks are another place to go to cool off, and their season this year has been extended until Sept. 30.

Claire Kurgan is a data news intern at WBEZ.

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