ROXBURY, NJ – They’re bright and colorful. Dogs find them irresistible. One might help save your life someday.

These are three good reasons to love fire hydrants and – if you’ve got the equipment and a strong back - to join the fledgling “Adopt a Hydrant Challenge” effort in Roxbury.

By doing so, you pledge to keep a nearby hydrant clear of snow, plants and anything else that could hinder firefighters from quickly getting to your adopted baby.

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The effort was spearheaded Tuesday by Jessica Hatton, a Ridgefield Park volunteer firefighter who works in Succasunna as director of marketing for A Grade Property Restoration, a new TAPinto Roxbury sponsor.

The campaign has been embraced by Roxbury firefighters who’ve been struggling with the problem.

“Basically, due to the heavy snow, people not been shoveling out the hydrants,” said Roxbury Co. 1 Fire and EMS Captain Tommy Bilancia. “We made concerted effort to try to do that ourselves. Then, Jessica from A Grade started this hashtag movement (AdoptAHydrant) and, once she tagged us, I posted that this is a challenge we can get behind.”

Hatton and A Grade co-owner Christian Licciardi have tackled a number of hydrant clear-outs this week. Hatton joined Bilancia and others from Fire Co. 1 on Tuesday evening; Licciardi was joined earlier in the day by Roxbury Police Patrolman Kevin Lockhart in digging out several hydrants in town.

“It is important for us to be involved in the community and show our support," Licciardi said. "We work here, live here and want to help our community. This is just something small we can do to say thanks to our local emergency responders, especially those who are volunteers.”

Bilancia, who’s been a firefighter for 23 years, said snow-encased hydrants are a hazard.

“It makes our job 100 percent harder because now we have to dig out a hydrant to get water to provide suppression of a fire,” he said. “It hampers our ability to be quick to extinguish.”

Bilancia noted that firetrucks carry only 750 to 1,000 gallons of water. “We can go through 1,000 gallons in three minutes,” he said. Although the fire company also has a tanker, it will also run out of water well before a major fire can be suppressed, Bilancia said.

On Tuesday, Roxbury Township Manager John Shepherd said that, while the township expects residents and businesses to clear snow from around hydrants, it's taking a patient approach this year due to the fact that the town got hammered with almost three feet of snow on Feb. 1.

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