Bulletin 157 March 2012 Critical Role of Fire Hydrants
- Posted at: September 25, 2021 02:54:21

Although there have been many improvements in the design of fire hydrants over the decades, their main role continues to be supplying water for the purpose of putting out fires. Water is still our most abundant and least expensive fire-fighting agent. We see these metal monuments by the side the road as we journey to a place of employment or tend to personal affairs in our home neighborhood. Beyond the “no parking” signs posted beside each fire hydrant, a closer examination reveals various shapes and colours of fire hydrants. In thinking about these bulky post-like fixtures rising out of the snow-covered ground, one might even wonder why the water doesn’t freeze inside them despite the sub-zero temperatures of winter. We rely upon fire hydrants to provide access to a water supply should they be required in the event of a fire emergency. Each fire hydrant is usually connected to a pressurized water main buried beneath the city street. In the case of an unpressurized system, the main is supplied by a water reserve or storage cistern via independent pumps. In areas subject to freezing temperatures, only a portion of the hydrant is exposed above the ground. The actual water outlet valve is located well below the frost line, thereby keeping the vertical body of the hydrant dry. When the outlet valve is completely closed, a drain valve located underground opens to allow the water to escape from the hydrant body and prevent freezing.

Every hydrant has one or more outlets to which a fire hose may be connected. If the water supply is pressurized, the hydrant will have additional valves to regulate the flow. In order to provide sufficient water for firefighting, hydrants are sized to provide a minimum flow rate, which may be specified in gallons or litres per minute. From the standpoint of arriving personnel and the pumper truck, fire fighters need to be able to quickly determine the tactics they should employ and how to access the water supply. For a given volume and complexity of a fire, the limiting factor is the available flow capacity of the fire hydrant. It is critical for fire services to know the how fast water can be drawn from the closest hydrant so that they can select appropriately-sized hose lines. In addition, it is important for them to be aware of the water pressure in each hydrant. This will allow them to immediately implement the required pumping operations so as to ensure sufficient water to attack the fire. For these reasons, fire hydrants are colour-coded to indicate the flow capacity in gallons per minute (GPM). As with city-owned fire hydrants, private property owners have a similar responsibility to maintain the fire hydrants on their property. According to the Ontario Fire Code, “Private and public water supplies for fire protection installations shall be maintained to provide the required flow under fire conditions” (Subsection 6.6.1), and “Municipal and private hydrants shall be maintained in operating condition” (Subsection The Code also requires that “Hydrants shall be inspected annually and after each use in accordance with Articles to” (Subsection As outlined in the Ontario Fire Code, both municipal and privately-owned fire hydrants are to be listed in the fire safety plan for the building, along with the requirements for inspection and testing. The location of each hydrant must be indicated on the site plan drawings.

This article was contributed by Firepoint Inc, serving the GTA since 1997, developing fire department approved fire safety plans for newly constructed and existing buildings. Although every effort is made to ensure the accuracy, currency and completeness of the information, the bulletin publishers and authors do not guarantee, warrant, represent or undertake that the information provided is correct, accurate or current and shall not be liable for any loss, claim, or demand arising directly or indirectly from any use or reliance upon the bulletin information. Bulletin reproduction in whole or in part is prohibited without the written consent of Firepoint Inc. Copyright 2021 – All Rights Reserved. See www.firepoint.ca or call 905-874-9400.

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