'That's my job:' Raleigh worker endures super soaking to contain erupting hydrant

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- John Pilkerton has worked with Raleigh public utilities for 11 years. It must have seemed nearly that long as water blasted him from a gushing fire hydrant Thursday afternoon in a scene captured by Chopper 11 HD and an ABC11 ground crew.

In reality, it took about 45 minutes, with Pilkerton being drenched to the bone by the torrent as he worked to manually turn off the valve.

"Just think of somebody with a fire hose, and they got it full blast and it's blasting you in the face," Pilkerton told ABC11. "Just think of all that pressure, and you're still trying to get a valve key down to turn it off so you can stop it."

Raleigh workers rushed to contain the watery eruption, which happened at Glenwood Avenue and Washington Street when a moving truck hit and took out the fire hydrant.

There did not appear to be any injuries, Raleigh Police told ABC11. Officers directed traffic while Pilkerton and other workers tried to get the situation under control.

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Raw video: Hydrant erupts in Raleigh on Glenwood at Washington.

"I came over the top of the hill on Glenwood there and there was water reaching above the power lines," Pilkerton said. "So I could see where the valve was, so I had to work my way into the water. Once I worked my way into the water, I had to work to get the valve lid off."

Pilkerton finally succeeded in getting the best of the geyser about 3:30 p.m.

"Once I could get down and turned the valve lid off, we put down there what we call a valve key to turn it off, so I got that down in there and I had to do turn after turn after turn," Pilkerton said.

Margaret Richards owns an interior-design shop on the corner of Washington and Glenwood.

"I look up and see a moving truck try and turn the corner, and all I could see it doing was clipping the corner and hopping up on the curve," Richards said. "It was pretty crazy and just rocks were flying everywhere, gushing water and then it started hitting our cars and we were going to go out there and move our cars but then rocks started hitting the window."

The rocks did blow out some rear windows in the vehicles.

The water main is not damaged, Pilkerton said. The valve is still intact and the only thing that needs to be replaced is the hydrant.

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Raw video: Chopper 11 HD over the erupting fire hydrant.

The City of Raleigh has 60,000 valves, he told ABC11. They are checked frequently to make sure they're prepped for incidents such as this one.
Repair work on the hydrant continued late into the evening.

As for Pilkerton, some might consider him an everyday hero, albeit a soggy one.

"My pants are still soaked," he smiled. "All the rest of my wet stuff is in the back of the truck.

"That's what they pay me to do," he added. "That's my job."
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