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Hit-and-run leaves fire hydrant spewing water for over an hour

Sentinel, Citrus Heights, fire hydrant, break, water
A 50-foot geyser of water from a broken fire hydrant on Old Auburn Road sprays into the air Sunday night as firefighters wait for a water district technician arrive. // Citrus Heights Sentinel

Sentinel staff report–
A 50-foot geyser of water spewed out of a broken fire hydrant in Citrus Heights for more than an hour after a pickup truck plowed off the road and into a fence outside Pioneer Baptist Church on Sunday night.

Neighbor Keith Schrenk, who lives across from the church on Old Auburn Road, said he called 9-1-1 after hearing what sounded like a rear-end collision and saw a pickup truck apparently trying to drive off before the driver fled on foot towards Sylvan Corners.

“He hit the fire hydrant and when I came out all he was doing was going in a circle, motor gunning, like he was trying to get out of there,” said Schrenk. “But I think his wheels were stuck in the turn position [from the collision] so all he could do was go in a circle.”

Video surveillance from the church appears to show the vehicle plow into the hydrant and fence around 8:54 p.m., stop for several seconds, and then attempt to continue driving. A solo driver can also be seen exiting the truck and then leaving the scene.

Metro Fire personnel at the scene were unable to shut the water off, leaving emergency responders unable to do anything to stop the flow of water until a Citrus Heights Water District technician arrived around 10 p.m. and was able to access an underground shut-off valve in the street.

Although unfamiliar with Sunday night’s incident in particular, Metro Fire Captain Chris Vestal said hydrants being hit are “not uncommon” in the Sacramento area, especially during rain and when daylight hours are shorter. He said valves that control the hydrants can be located where firefighters cannot find them or get easy access to, in which cases firefighters will wait for water district personnel to arrive.

Citrus Heights Police Sgt. Kane Kissam said the collision was reported at 8:56 p.m. on Nov. 5 and is considered a hit-and-run incident. As of Monday evening, he said no suspect had been identified.

Although the church was empty after an evening church service had concluded about an hour before the collision occurred, Pastor Kyle Conley and several members of his congregation arrived while the water was still spewing to check if the building was flooding. Water could be seen flowing quickly along the ground near lower story windows that were placed just inches above ground level.

“I cannot believe that it didn’t flood with that amount of water going through here,” Conley said, after walking through the downstairs floor of his church, which is below ground level. “Thank the Lord for the fence, because otherwise he would have hit the church.”

Conley said the lower level of the aging building used to leak almost every time it rained, but a church member had recently caulked and sealed the downstairs windows, located about 20 feet from where the fire hydrant was spraying water. Due to a series of vandalism incidents at the church last year, Conley said the security camera that captured the collision on tape had also recently been installed.

“Just another Sunday in the Lord’s house,” the pastor said with an upbeat outlook after the incident.

From last year: Historic Citrus Heights church hit with multiple vandalism attacks

Neighboring homes appeared to also be unaffected by flooding, although vehicles had to navigate around at least eight inches of water that had flooded on a nearby dip in the roadway.

The site at 7600 Old Auburn Rd. was the location of the first church in Citrus Heights, according to a historical landmark sign on the property. The building was originally constructed in 1921 for a Quaker congregation and was called the “Friends Church.” It bore that name until being sold in 1975, when it became Pioneer Baptist Church.

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