Big Stone Gap, Va. -

The most important fire fighting tool departments have is not the trucks and all of that equipment -- it's water.

Without water, fighting a fire becomes even more difficult; that's what happened with a broken fire hydrant in the rural East Stone Gap community recently. We investigated and found a plan is in the works to properly maintain those hydrants.

You hardly notice them until you need one, a fire hydrant. Fire departments rely on them to fight fires, and when they aren't working, it creates problems. "We really didn't know we didn't have water until we got on scene. Big Stone came in and they were going to hit the hydrant, and it was dead," says Valley Fire Department Chief Carlos Bush, Jr.

That causes departments to get water from the nearest hydrant, which could be miles away.

Big Stone Gap has 500 hydrants to maintain. "We started about a year ago, recognizing hydrants that need to serviced and regularly inspected, like the one you just ran into. We just came across and just so happened when there's a fire it wasn't operational. We don't want those kind of things to happen," town manager Pat Murphy said.

There was some confusion about who would maintain them. "We're putting together a maintenance program that will formalize our procedure for inspecting them on a regular basis or maintaining them, being sure that everyone is on the same page. If you've got those formal procedures you can fall back and be sure that you got adequate fire protection throughout your entire system," the town manager added.

Because those hydrants are the firefighter's best tool.