Cooling Centers And Hydrant Parties Help Northern Illinois Residents Beat The Heat

Jul 18, 2019

At Andrews Park in Rockford, the heat index is rising, so officials are letting children play near the fire hydrants.

It's part of a new series of events they call "hydrant parties." Rockford's Fire and Water Departments are working together on them. 

At the events, they connect a large specially-designed sprinkler system to a fire hydrant. The parties are taking place in cul-de-sacs and blocked off streets all around the city. They're meant to help kids have fun while cooling off. 

Tequilla Jordan brought her nieces to the park this week. She says they had plenty of fun at the event, and she'd like to see the parties happen more often.

"If we're gonna have a hot summer, just do it out," Jordan said. "I mean, if we can do it, like, once a week, that's fine to get us through these hot days."

On the whole, the hydrant parties have gotten a good response, according to Randy James, a recruiter for the Rockford Fire Department. He says the events not only allow the department to meet the community, but also give people relief from the weather.

"This heat stresses everything out, it stresses electrical components, it stresses people," James said.

It's more than just hydrant parties helping Northern Illinois residents stay cool. There are seven different cooling centers open throughout Winnebago and Boone Counties; they're located in Rockford, Machesney Park, Pecatonica and Belvidere. 

Michele Pankow is the Division Chief of Operations for the Rockford Fire Department. She says the cooling centers provide somewhere to go for people who need an air-conditioned space during the hottest parts of the day.

"When you get this hot and you have the heat indices and the humidity that you have, then we see an uptick in heat related illnesses, whether it be heat exhaustion or even something more severe like heatstroke," Pankow said.

She says there are more centers available this year.

"This year, the Salvation Army has added a couple additional sites, which is outstanding," Pankow said. "That helps us, you know, take care of more of our folks."

Outside Winnebago and Boone Counties, there are plenty of locations serving as cooling centers. According to DeKalb County's Health Department, public libraries and government-owned buildings also serve as cooling centers during regular business hours.

Back at Andrews Park, the hydrant parties are also helping plenty of people in the area. James says over 100 people came to Wednesday's events.

"We have some tough temperatures coming the next few days, and if this makes people smile a little bit during those times, then it's well worth it," James said.

Rockford is holding two more hydrant parties Friday afternoon in Police District 3 and Saturn Park.