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Fire Hydrants – Your Silent Friend

Wednesday, June 16th, 2010

Fire Hydrants – Your Silent Friend

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Lurking on every street and hopefully on every street corner, is a short multi-colored friend. Some are red, some are green, many are yellow, and some even get painted to look like Snoopy, Uncle Sam, or something like that. What are they? Well in case of a fire, they are our best buddies the FIRE HYDRANT. Where is the closest one to you right now? In front of the station? Down the block? Are you at home? Where’s the closest one to your home? Why? If the neighbor’s house or shed or heaven forbid, your house should be on fire, and the first in engine has to search for it, it can mean the difference between a small fire and total loss.

If you live in some big cities, the hydrant is carried on the fire truck and is connected to a fitting in the sidewalk. In this case, you probably don’t have to worry too much because the fire department has to know where they are. However if you live in a rural area, and work for the fire department, or volunteer, the hydrant search can be a classic.

Here in Las Vegas, we put blue reflectors in the street to mark hydrant locations. That way, in the daytime we can see the hydrant and at night the headlights reflect the blue marker.

When I first started, in 1973, there was still a lot of open land, (desert) between homes and building, so we had problems with weeds too… especially if you are where it actually rains. We had some once, I think… Anyway, weeds and grass grow fast and can cover hydrants in a matter of weeks. If you don’t have a maintenance program, you can have a real problem. In many rural areas, they enlist the help of people living by the hydrants to keep them clear. The incentive? Having water for the fire burning in their shed, house or barn. Usually, by requesting help, this can be a very beneficial thing. Of course, checking the fire hydrants on a routine basis, is a real necessity.

I happen to know of one small community, where a developer had put in several fire hydrants. Eventually the local fire department decided to check their flow. They opened the steamer connection to find spiders and dust. Upon further investigation, it was discovered that the developer had not even run the water main, but had simply dug a hole and dropped the hydrant into it. The closest water was almost a mile away. Well, he did run a three (3) inch line to supply the homes. Can you imagine the embarrassment for the fire department if they would have had a fire and tried one of those hydrants.

While we are on this subject. Testing the amount of flow is critical also. Too little flow can come from a partially closed key valve, blocked valve or line, or too small of a water main reducing the available water supply. It is far better to find this out in advance, than to find it out with someone screaming for help while you are trying to supply the engine with water.

Another reason for maintenance? Try getting the caps off a hydrant that has not been opened for a while. I snapped a big hydrant wrench by standing and jumping on it. The developer had purposely tightened the caps because he had poured concrete around the hydrants the day before. And he had shut off, at the key valve, all of the other hydrants. Thus we had one 2 ½” outlet, through a meter, to combat six newly constructed homes, fully involved. What I’m saying with this, is if you have a construction site, stay on top of it. You won’t regret it.

I hope this has given you a few thoughts and reminders about such a small, simple, necessary thing.

Be careful and take care of the stubby little yellow guy. He’s a wonderful friend if taken care of properly

Captain Jep


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