Vandal opens Philo hydrant, emptying water tower

Vandal opens Philo hydrant, emptying water tower

PHILO – The village of Philo was placed under a boil order early today after a vandal opened a fire hydrant, totally draining the village's water tower.

The incident is among about two dozen reported to authorities in the last several weeks in Champaign, Urbana and Savoy.

As the water was draining from the Philo water tower, another hydrant was reported open about 2:30 a.m. in Savoy in the 300 block of West Curtis Road.

Philo Mayor Craig Eckert said he got up in the early morning hours to get a drink of water and realized there was no pressure in the lines.

"I turned the tap and there was nothing, not even hissing. I noticed the water was down in my toilet," he said, adding he immediately went to the pump house on the corner of Washington and Harrison and found the village maintenance man, Dave Traxler, already at work.

Also present was Roger Swaney, the county coroner who also lives in Philo, who said he went to put on a pot of coffee around 4 a.m. and noticed there was no water. Swaney reported the situation to 911 and then headed to the pump house where he also found Traxler.

"He (Traxler) was already working on it. The pump lost its prime when it went dry and it couldn't refill the tank without manual labor," Swaney said.

Eckert said the entire 50,000 gallons of water drained from the water tower.

"Thank God there was no fire because we would have had no water to fight it. We also had no pressure but pressure was being restored when I left town about 6:30 a.m. We were up to about half normal by then," Eckert said, reminding that the boil order was in effect until further notice.

Swaney said Traxler and he both went searching for the open hydrant and Traxler found it in the 200 block of West Tyler Street in the northwest part of town.

Swaney said Traxler estimated the hydrant would have been opened about 1 a.m. Traxler could not be reached for comment this morning.

Eckert said Traxler had gotten up once to use the bathroom and noticed on the water gauge he keeps at his home that the pressure was down but within acceptable limits. When he got up again later, it had "dropped significantly," Eckert said.

Swaney, a former firefighter, said it doesn't require any special kind of tool to open a hydrant.

"It must be completely on or off or you'll ruin the valve. It can be a very expensive act of vandalism," Swaney said.

This week's Crimestoppers report asked for the public's help in finding the persons responsible for hydrant tampering.

Last month, the Champaign, Urbana and Savoy fire departments and police responded to more than 20 reports of hydrants being opened and in some instances, the hydrant caps being stolen. About 4 a.m. Tuesday, a cap was stolen from a hydrant at Iowa and Garfield streets in Urbana.

Tampering with fire hydrants is a Class B misdemeanor, the penalty for which is up to 180 days in the county jail.

Anyone with information is asked to call Crimestoppers at 373-8477.

You can reach Mary Schenk at (217) 351-5313 or via e-mail at mschenk@news-gazette.com.

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