Thursday, February 17, 2005

Digging his way out

Published in the Current

SCARBOROUGH (Feb 17, 2005): Deen Kirchner wanted some company this winter. The Scarborough 12-year-old has "adopted" a fire hydrant for each of the past three winters, and wants everyone in town to do the same.

After big snowstorms, Kirchner shovels snow away from the fire hydrant across the street from his house, which helps firefighters respond more quickly to emergencies.
It takes firefighters about 45 seconds to hook up a hose to a hydrant, Kirchner said. But if they have to dig the hydrant out from under the snow, it can take as long as two minutes -- an eternity for someone whose house is on fire, or who is trapped inside.

Just down the street is another hydrant that regularly gets buried by storms and plows.

"I tried to convince my friend Eric," who lives down the street, to adopt that one, Kirchner said. But it didn't work, so Kirchner is thinking about adopting it as well.

He has encouraged other family members to help him out with "his" hydrant, and after last week's big storm, he got a neighbor to come by with a pickup and a plow to clear away the big mess around the hydrant.

Kirchner, now in sixth grade, started three years ago, after his mother heard about an "adopt-a-hydrant" program in South Portland, where residents were asked to take a few extra minutes while clearing their walks and driveways, to dig out hydrants as well.

"There's not really anything else for kids to volunteer," Kirchner said. A lot of local non-profits are happy to have young people volunteer, but require them to be 13 or older.

"I want to help," Kirchner said.

He also carefully removes any ice from around the fixtures. He said it takes about 20 minutes for him to fix up the hydrant, though he is a fastidious worker and checks back regularly to ensure that warm temperatures and passing vehicles haven't conspired to cover any portion of the hydrant.

He has even brought a degree of engineering to the task. He knows which direction the town plow usually comes from, and keeps that side clearer. That way, the snowplow dumps its load of snow before the hydrant and doesn't cover the hydrant itself.

He keeps an eye on the weather, so he knows when his work will be needed. "When I wake up, I look outside," Kirchner said.

He eats his breakfast in front of the local TV news. And when a big storm is on the way, he makes sure his tools are ready, except this last time.

He forgot to put his shovel upright in a tall snowbank, and after the storm, had to spend 10 minutes looking for it. He eventually found it on the ground, "under all the snow," near the grill.

He also knows how to handle his workload. "When I'd get tired, I'd build a couch" to sit on and rest.

Wednesday, February 2, 2005

Burst pipes flood Ruth’s, damaging stuff

Published in the Current

SCARBOROUGH (Feb 2, 2005): A non-profit school supply group in Scarborough, Ruth's Reusable Resources, is looking for donations and volunteers after pipes burst flooding the Bessey School, the group's home.

Two pipes burst in the building in the frigid weather over the weekend. The water was not discovered until Tuesday morning. Ruth Libby, the head of the organization, is looking for volunteers to help sort through the debris and donations of money and space to move supplies to.

"It's still pretty wet," Ruth Libby said Tuesday afternoon, as the recovery effort began. Some volunteers have told Libby they will come by after school in the coming days.

Several rooms throughout the old school building are stacked high with paper, books, arts and crafts materials and other school supplies donated by local companies and available for schoolteachers to collect at no charge.

School districts pay $1.50 per student per year for membership in Ruth's. A single teacher can take as much as $300 worth of items in one visit.

"There's enough stuff thrown away daily in this whole state to take care of pretty much every school district," she said. She also has nine 18-wheel trailers filled with items, some filled as many as eight years ago.

The damage is "depressing," Libby said. The building is old and hasn't received much maintenance in recent years. "We're past the spot where this building is feasible."

She has begun a fund-raising effort and is seeking donors of money and space for the items to move. Donations are coming in, though slowly, and warehouse space is hard to find. Those wishing to donate should call 883-8407.

For the moment, she will stay in the Bessey School, where several storage rooms were flooded, some with several inches of water. "It just looked like a waterfall," Libby said workers who found the damage told her.

"A lot of the good computers that we had in there are wet" as are mounds of paper and other supplies that would have been available at no charge to employees of school districts that are members of the Ruth's group.

"Now we have to throw it away," she said, though she is trying to find a way to salvage as much as possible.

There are huge rolls of felt sitting on the floor of what used to be the school gym. Only the bottom couple of inches are wet. "I will figure out a way to cut it, if I have to unroll the whole roll to do it," she said Wednesday.

Some areas of the floor were still wet Wednesday, and Libby was waiting for a Dumpster to be delivered so she could begin clearing things out.

Many of the supplies are stacked in piles, meaning most of the supplies are still dry. But those have to be moved before the wet things on the bottom of the piles can be thrown away.

Several large rooms have water damage, and some rugs may have to be removed, Libby said. That would require moving everything out of the rooms.

She is asking for volunteers to help moving and sorting items. By press time Wednesday, she was not sure when would be the best time for volunteers to come, and suggested people call the office (883-8407) to offer to help.

The flood is the second in Ruth's history. The first, about seven years ago, was the result of roof repairs that let in a deluge from a rainstorm.

That time, she had to throw out more stuff, because most of it was stored directly on the floor. After that flood, she stored many items on wooden pallets or shelves, lifting them at least a couple inches off the ground.