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AKRON -- The brutal cold temperatures are creating a different kind of life-or-death situation.

Frozen fire hydrants could take vital time away from fighting a fire, leaving hydrant maintenance workers to prepare for the worst.

There are more than 10,000 fire hydrants in the Akron area and 3,000 more on the outskirts and only three hydrant maintenance workers like Wayne Powers.

No matter how cold it gets, Powers is shoveling, thawing and fixing as many as 10 hydrants a day so that they're not frozen when firefighters need them most.

"Fire works by seconds, not minutes, so every second counts. The time they'd take to dig that out is just a waste of time inside," said Powers.

To start melting the ice, Powers created his own thawing device that he jokingly calls "Sparky," made of pipes in the shape of a small dog.

It's not exactly a Dalmatian, but it stays in place to melt the core of the hydrant.

The heat is so intense, it roasts the hydrant paint like a marshmallow.

But, once inside, Powers can finally open the valve and fix the problem.

"We take care of it, so if they are needed, they're ready to go, fireman are safe, hopefully it saves the structure, and everybody's lives that are inside," said Powers.

Sometimes Powers can be out in the brutal cold temperatures for hours.

He says it's worth it, but some warmer weather could certainly help.

"I look forward to spring as soon as fall gets here," Powers said with a smile.

The Water Department will repaint the damaged hydrants in the spring.

If you know of a fire hydrant that has sprung a leak and is now frozen, you can call the Fire Department to report it.

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