FARGO — A house fire reported in the early morning hours of Thursday, March 14, clearly illustrated the importance of having hydrants accessible.

Battalion Chief Joe Mangin said there are 7,100 fire hydrants throughout Fargo and during an emergency, having access to one hydrant is crucial for first responders.

Mangin said a homeowner might shovel snow away from hydrants 10 times or more and never have a fire.

"But you never know exactly when they are needed," he said. "When we need them, it's needed immediately. So that pre-work you do saves time and allows us to focus on the job that you want us to being doing and only we can do."

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In north Fargo, a good Samaritan named Kenny Asplin noticed around 1:45 a.m. that a house at 2206 10th St. N., was on fire.

Asplin began digging out a hydrant covered in several feet of snow while a cab driver alerted the homeowners who escaped without injuries.

"Because of what he did, it limited damage," Mangin said. "Incredible effort at the right time."

It took three minutes for crews to respond to the fire, but clearing the hydrant would have added to the response time and taken away resources needed to battle the intense flames, Mangin said.

To encourage residents to clear hydrants, the West Fargo Fire Department started a contest in mid-February. The department asked folks to take a photo or video before and after a hydrant is cleared for a chance to win a cup designed with the department's logo.

In Moorhead, the fire department is reminding homeowners to clear hydrants after snowstorms. By doing so, the department is calling these proactive people "hydrant heroes" who help keep neighborhoods safe.

It takes about 3 minutes to clear a hydrant, though it could take longer with heavier snow and moisture accumulating.

Even if a hydrant isn't directly in front of your house, Mangin said if it's on your street "it's protecting you."

Mangin said not only did Asplin help dig out the hydrant, he also helped connect it to the fire truck just as crews were about to run out of water.

The cause of the house fire remains under investigation, but it appeared to have started in the garage, which was severely damaged in the blaze, and spread to the attic of the house.

The American Red Cross is assisting with temporary housing for the displaced residents.