Bulletin 188 October 2014 Fire Hydrants: An Important Roadside Monument
- Posted at: September 25, 2021 03:48:06

Over the last few centuries, having access to water for the purpose of fire-fighting has presented challenges. Water has always been our most abundant and least expensive fire-fighting agent. From using hollowed out tree trunks as piping to move water to filling wheeled tanks with buckets, inventors have made significant changes to water delivery methods over the years. The fire hydrant itself has undergone many modifications to improve its performance and ease of maintenance. Although there have been adjustments in design, the main role of fire hydrants continues to be supplying water for the purpose of putting out fires.

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. Aside from 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 at any time of the year. 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 internal freezing. From the standpoint of arriving pumper trucks, fire fighters need to be able to quickly determine the tactics they should employ and how to access the water supply. For the volume and complexity of a given 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 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. Code regulations specify that both municipal and privately-owned fire hydrants are 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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