What Hydrant?

I enjoy looking for things like hydrant locations and building features whether I am on the job or just out and about. It really makes my wife nuts because I point out what exits we will be using if something happens and things like that.  She just doesn’t understand.

Hydrants are a real challenge sometimes.  People like to hide them like Easter eggs for the firefighters to find. But, instead of a bright, sunny morning to go hunting for these important pieces of our suppression puzzle, we get to hunt for them in dark, rain or snow driven nights being half awake.

These are just some examples of what property owners do with hydrants.  The one shown above is behind a large complex with an anchor store and many ancillary stores in a strip mall.  You cannot see this hydrant when you pull into the drive.  Notice the leaves are mostly gone and we still can’t see the plug.

This hydrant is the closest to a FDC on the same building.  I found this one while doing an inspection at the building next door.  I just happen to park where you see this vehicle and as I got out of the vehicle noticed the plug. You have to be looking just in the right place to find this one.

The really bad thing about this plug is that the most obvious hydrant is straight across a four lane road.  Odds are that is where the operator would take his line for his supply. In the middle of the night he is going to hit the closest, most visible hydrant.

We don’t only have hydrants that are hidden, but some get damaged and it is never reported or repaired.

It is fairly obvious that we would have a tough time turning this hydrant. We have to have the property owners make these repairs.

Accidents happen and hydrants are not typically an attractive addition to well manicured landscaping. However, we must be diligent to find and make sure corrections are made to keep these valuable resources accessible.

In my experiences, once explained to the property owner the importance of having the hydrant accessible, and the fact that it is a code violation, they are willing to fix the problem.  Some jurisdictions will trim brush and trees on their own; be careful doing that, unless there is a fire of course.

Do any of you have a policy on cleaning up around hidden hydrants?  Who paints them and what color scheme do you use?  Are they identified by size or gallons per minute?  Do you share that information with your mutual aid companies?

Take care and remember that we need to sweat some of this small stuff, it may be the difference between success and failure.

Train hard and stay safe.


  • michael says:

    In Providence, every company is responsible for their hydrant district, responsibilities include testing the hydrant, painting location markers on poles or buildings or fences, if a hydrant is 20 feet from the marker, an arrow pointing in the direction of the hydrant is painted in black over a 12×12 field, with the number of feet away, and an x if it is across the street. The markers are located at least five feet above ground level so they are visible above most cars, and especially snowbanks. Every hydrant in the city is shoveled clean after a snowstorm.

    Water supply takes care of the rest.

    • dc802 says:

      Thanks for sharing that information. It is nice hear of a jurisdiction taking good care of our water sources. In some places, the water department does all of the work, at least they are supposed to and they don’t like us messing with “their” hydrants.
      Stay safe,

  • Nate Q. says:

    In our city, the water department “leases” the hydrants to the FD, but we (engine and quint companies) do maintenance/ testing on them twice a year: operate/flow test/grease in the spring, and paint/place road markers in the fall (we’re lucky to be in FL, no snow markers, just little blue reflectors in the appropriate lane). All public hydrants are yellow (with commercial areas having gpm color-coded bonnets -red/orange/green/light blue) and all privately owned hydrants are red. Our policy is to keep 6′ of space around hydrants, but we’ve got many similar to the pictures you posted. Usually just getting with the property owner solves the problem, although sometimes more convincing is needed. We had a car restoration shop that constantly blocked a hydrant with vintage autos despite being told many times. It all changed when we started using paint sprayers to paint the hydrants…just the sight of us walking up with aerosolized paint sent them scurrying, no overspray required. Each crew is assigned between 100-200 hydrants int their first-due, and although people gripe at times, it really gets us out and learning our first-due and hydrants.

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Jason Hoevelmann

Deputy Chief/Fire Marshal with the Sullivan Fire Protection District, a combination department, and a career firefighter/paramedic with the Florissant Valley Fire Protection District in North St. Louis County.

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