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'We could have a fire': Broken fire hydrants raise concerns among homeowners

WRTV Investigates takes questions to Citizens Energy Group
Fire Hydrants
Posted at 5:15 PM, Jun 20, 2024

INDIANAPOLIS — Greg Oertel and his wife Shawn noticed it while putting out a yard sale sign— a broken fire hydrant hidden by some weeds.

“My husband got out and we’re like, ‘there’s a hole,’” said Shawn Oertel. “You look down and you just see water. We’re like, ‘what would happen if our house had a fire?’”

The Oertels live on Belmar Avenue on Indy’s east side. They have owned their house for 42 years.

Greg and Shawn Oertel have owned a home on Belmar Avenue for four decades.

“We have an old house, and we could have a fire,” said Greg Oertel. “There’s just a hole in the ground where the hydrant should be. I don’t know what they’re doing.”

A driver knocked out the fire hydrant on Belmar Avenue in July 2023, according to neighbors.

Weeds grow where a fire hydrant sits on Belmar Avenue

“We heard it,” said Gerald Schneidt, who lives at the corner of Belmar and East Michigan Street. "We reported the broken hydrant to the police and then later called Citizens to let them know they had a broken hydrant laying in the street,"

Schneidt knows the issue firsthand.

"I'm a retired firefighter so it was pretty important to us that we always have working hydrants,” said Schneidt.

Gerald Schneidt lives at the corner of Belmar and East Michigan Street

Neighbors told WRTV Investigates it’s not just the Belmar Avenue fire hydrant that’s raised concerns.

A few blocks away, at East New York Street and Cecil Avenue, another hydrant had a bag over it.

“This seems very dangerous to us to not have a working fire hydrant close to us,” said Shawn Oertel.

WRTV Investigates started digging.


“I’m glad someone is looking into it,” said Greg Oertel.

WRTV Investigates learned that unlike many cities that run their own water systems, Citizens Energy Group owns and maintains 40,000 hydrants throughout Marion County and beyond.

A map is available here [].)

Some hydrants date back to the late 1800s, according to Citizens Energy Group.

In 2011, Citizens Energy Group acquired the City of Indianapolis water system. But, Citizens Energy Group is not a government entity, it is a public trust with no shareholders.

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When you pay your water bill, a portion goes to keep hydrants in working order.

After we started asking questions about the Belmar Avenue broken fire hydrant, a Citizens crew came out to fix it on May 23— 10 months after it broke.

“It's sad that it took them this long. It shouldn't have taken this long,” said neighbor Gerald Schneidt. “It should have been fixed within a couple weeks.”

Benjamin Easley, a spokesperson for Citizens Energy Group, said most hydrants are fixed within a few days to a month.

Kara Kenney speaks with Ben Easley with Citizens Energy Group

As for the Belmar Avenue hydrant which took 10 months to fix, Easley looked into the delay.

“It got routed correctly to our dispatch folks, but somewhere between our dispatch team and our fire hydrant team there was a disconnect,” said Easley. “I would say that one was an outlier in our maintenance program. There was that communication breakdown."

As for the bagged hydrant nearby, Easley said when they inspected it, the hydrant was working so they removed the bag.

Citizens Energy Group typically finds out about broken fire hydrants from regular inspections and maintenance, and to a lesser extent, from fire departments and inquiries from citizens.


You can report damage to a fire hydrant at 317-924-3311.

“If they see something we are not able to see, please get in touch with our dispatch folks,” said Easley. “They will refer that over to our fire hydrant crew that will take care of it.”

Ben Easley with Citizens Energy Group

WRTV Investigates requested a list of fire hydrants currently broken in the city, but Citizens Energy Group did not provide that.

Easley said in a typical month, they have an average of 50 hydrants out of service at any given time.

"For obvious safety reasons we don't want to publicly disclose a list of hydrants that are inoperable,” said Easley.

Easley said as of May 2024, 41 hydrants were out of service which is .1% of all hydrants they own and maintain.


Citizens Energy Group also provided a breakdown showing in which communities hydrants are broken.


WRTV Investigates also checked with fire departments across Marion County and they told us if a hydrant is broken, firefighters are trained to look for the next closest— which is usually every 500 feet.

“If our firefighters identify that a hydrant is not functional for whatever reason, they simply move to the next appropriate hydrant,” said Pike Township Fire Chief Jeff Beam in an email to WRTV. “That hydrant may be in front of them or behind them. We typically have multiple fire engines on a fire incident. Each of those fire engines stages at a fire hydrant in the event that the water from that hydrant is needed.”

People who live on Belmar Avenue on Indy’s east side tell WRTV Investigates they feel safer now that their hydrant issues have been extinguished.

“We sure appreciate it,” said Gerald Schneidt. “I know all of us neighbors do.”

The below picture shows a dot where each fire hydrant in the city is located

Fire Hydrants
Every dot on the map signifies a fire hydrant in the area.

You can contact WRTV Investigates Kara Kenney at