My dogs, Bernie and Chris, and I exercise in a partially developed housing area. In 2008, construction halted on this huge community project. We enjoy total freedom while we can. The planned village has paved streets, sidewalks, mailboxes, streetlights and street signs. All utilities are underground, including the fire hydrants
Click. Click. Click taps the steel tip of my trek pole. Both shafts have rubber ends, but the right staff top is worn down, exposing the metal point.
As I stride forward, my left stick lightly touches the ground and silently swings fully backward. Click. Click. Click.
As Sunday’s dawn breaks over the extensive large landscaped housing lots, the measured click resonances with me. Click. Click. Click.
On these hot July days, the best time to exercise Bernie and Chris is at dawn, before triple-digit temperatures. As I click along, I scan the ground to find where dog shapes break the low horizon.
Spotting them about a football field away, I relax and casually seek anything worth exploring. I need something to write.
Click. Click. I stop next to a fire hydrant. I’ve found something to write. Placing the poles against the hydrant, I step back to frame a photo. Chris bounds up, cocks his head, quizzically questions, “What’s going on?”
Chris asks a good question, for which I don’t have a suitable answer. It’s time I find out more about fire hydrants.
After more than a week of research, I am ready to tell Bernie and Chris more than they ever wanted to know about a fire hydrant.
Always wanting to share my knowledge, I have them sit for my presentation.
“Humans always face problems when it comes to controlling fires.”
Pointing to the fire hydrant in the distance, “The reason that yellow fire hydrant is five hundred feet from this one, next to you, is the regulation requires being not more than a specific distance from any portion of the target structure. Shortly, our exercise area will have many homes built in this neighborhood.
I’m not sure about the distance, however, in ancient China, water-filled iron cauldrons are positioned in strategic locations to put out fires.”
In an attempt to keep Bernie’s attention, I probe, “Did you know more than a hundred years ago, hollow logs were used, like pipes are used today, to transport water?
That’s where the term “fire plug” originated.
This photo shows the shattered section of a wooden water main that was dug up in recent years. The bored hole is for a “fireplug.” This piece is from the city of Cincinnati, Ohio in the early 1800s.
Hollow logs, filled with water, are buried in the street. Once at the scene of a fire, firefighters dig to uncover the log, then make a hole to release the water. A bucket brigade is used to fight the fire. When finished, the “fireplug” is applied, so water is available for the next fire.”
I’m about to say more when Chris raises his paw, points his nose and barks, “How come these hydrants are yellow, and that one is painted red, white, and blue?”
“Excellent question, Chris.”
How to keep this simple… there are several different colors used for quick identification. And the tops indicate how much GPM (gallons per minute) are available.
“Chris, for quick identification purpose the standard colors are White, Yellow, Red and Violet. Yellow is most common because it designates a connection to a public water main. Violet indicates a non-portable supply. However, the local governments can authorize other color designs.
Quickly locating water to fight a fire is always a top priority for fireman. In addition to colors, other visual signs aid the firefighters.
Vivid colored wands, that glow when light strikes them, are used. Also, tall poles sticking above the snow help identify the location of the fire hydrant.
Another identification indicator is a blue marker embedded in the street directly across from a fire hydrant.
With Global Positioning System (GPS) available, Fire Departments are using the Hydrant Locator (HyLo App) to find usable hydrants effectively.
There is information regarding what side of the street it is on as well as available water pressure. A red colored hydrant indicates the hydrant is not available for use.
To further help fireman, it is illegal to park within fifteen feet of a fire hydrant. The street curb is painted either red or yellow to warn people not to park within the legal parking area.
Someone unlawfully parked this car.
Although the fire hydrant’s primary purpose is to provide water to put out fires, hydrants serve additional functions.
Hydrants provide water to street cleaning trucks and vehicles that spray water to control dust in construction areas.
Water lines periodically need flushing to operate effectively.
When appropriate, a hydrant diffuser prevents damage to passing cars and property.
With the proper permit, a homeowner can use a fire hydrant to fill their in-ground swimming pool. In an emergency, the firefighter can drain the pool.
Low flow sprinkler heads allow people to play and cool off in hot weather.
On the other hand, a hydrant is an effective water source in riot control.
The squat, chunky appearance of a fire hydrant has a purpose. It’s made of cast iron and weighs up to 500 pounds. The massive construction is required because of the enormous water pressure within its walls. The blue color means it has a water pressure or flow rate of fifteen-hundred gallons per minute. That very high pressure is enough to knock a large man off his feet.
The colors of Green, Orange, and Red identify lower water pressure flows per minute.
Opening or closing a value determines whether water flows from the pipe. The photo shows a fireman operating a hydrant valve.”
I sense multiple paws shuffling and decide enough information is shared.
Thanking them for being so attentive, I release them. As they scamper away with enthusiastic freedom, the fire hydrant remains untouched.