A man whose home was saved by Falmouth firefighters during a recent blaze has said he worries someone could lose their life due to poor fire hydrant upkeep.

Rex Sadler, of Carlidnack Road in Mawnan Smith, gave his gratitude to the fire service after a chimney fire caught hold in the first floor and roof of his house, but spoke of his concern over the time it took to hook fire engines up to the local water supply.

He said: “How very grateful I am we still have a 24 hour retained fire service at Falmouth, without which I possibly could have lost my house.

“With the fire breaking into an upstairs bedroom it was looking quite serious but with the great skill of the fire crew a real disaster was averted.”

However, when firemen tried to use the hydrant, Rex said the pit in which it was located was full of grit washed from the road, and claimed that when this was shovelled away the valve was seized up and initially couldn’t be turned.

He said: “The fire hydrants on the main water supply are not serviced regularly, and the delay in clearing the solid grit that filled the pit and the difficulty in releasing the valve could cost some unfortunate individual their home, or even worse their life.

“Many years ago the fire service used to service the hydrants on an annual basis which meant they knew they were all working and where they were situated, which is vital in a time of emergency.”

Sean Taylor, station manager in the risk management department of Cornwall Fire and Rescue Service, said the service was responsible for monitoring the state of hydrants, subcontracting pit maintenance to Cormac and repairs to the hydrants themselves to South West Water, adding that hydrants in urban areas were tested annually, while others were serviced every five years on a rolling basis.

He said: “The problem is that they fill up with mud and silt. Ultimately, the hydrants can silt up in the space of a month.

“Fire officers are provided with shovels to clear the silt.”

He added that the current system was the most cost effective way of keeping hydrants serviced, keeping costs down for the taxpayer, and that the ongoing nature of testing was “like painting the Forth Bridge,” but members of the public should register any concerns on the Cornwall Council website or by calling the council on 0300 1234 100.

A South West Water spokesman said: “The fire service is responsible for inspecting, identifying faults and paying for maintenance of fire hydrants. South West Water is responsible for making any requested repairs and re-charges reasonable costs for doing so. We have not received any reports of issues with the hydrant located in Norway Farm, Carlidnack Road, Mawnan Smith.”