302 fire hydrants have been stolen from LA streets since 2023

A total of 302 hydrants have gone missing since the beginning of 2023 in Los Angeles County.

Jarryd Jaeger Vancouver, BC
Over the past few months, Los Angeles has seen an uptick in the number of fire hydrants being stolen directly off the street. The thieves are believed to be taking the appliances to recycling centers, where they are then broken down and sold for scrap metal. 

While hydrant heists are not a new phenomenon, the frequency with which they are now being removed is unprecedented. Golden State Water Co. has lost upwards of a million dollars in revenue as a result, and the sudden spike in cases has led the utility giant to take measures aimed at making their property thief-proof.

According to the Los Angeles Times, a total of 302 hydrants have gone missing since the beginning of 2023 in Los Angeles County, with areas such as Florence-Graham, Willowbrook, Gardena, and West Rancho Dominguez being among the hardest hit.

Thieves have employed a number of tactics to dislodge the hydrants from their pedestals. In some cases, they turned off the water source before unscrewing the bolts to carefully remove the hydrants, while in others they simply rammed them with a vehicle, leaving the water shooting out the then-uncovered opening.

Golden State Water Co.'s southwest district general manager Kate Nutting told the Times she and her team were "really alarmed about this happening." She called it "a big public safety issue."

Nutting explained that the company has been "taking even more aggressive measures" to try and make it nearly impossible for theives to make off with hydrants, including welding a protective barrier around the bolts. Thieves, however, have kept up, finding new ways to get what they want.

The absence of hydrants has also caused alarm among those who rely on them to fight fires. In a statement to the Times, the LA Fire Department said "their absence can hamper rescue efforts and lead to delays extinguishing fires."
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