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How To Ensure We Can Find Your Fire Hydrant

August 3, 2012

Most people know what a fire hydrant is for.  Few have actually used one in fire suppression.  If you’re in the business of using fire hydrants for fire fighting, you look at them a little differently than the rest of the world.  So here are the things our guys (and gals) look at when they see a fire hydrant.

  1. CAN WE SEE IT FROM THE STREET?  If a fire hydrant is in your yard, you see it all of the time.  We provide fire protection for 122 square miles and have 2,167 hydrants (with more on the way).  So we don’t have your individual fire hydrant in the front of our mind all of the time.  When people call us, seconds count so a fire hydrant must be visible from the street as we’re travelling toward the fire.  To tell if we can see your fire hydrant, go out into the street and walk down the street 50 feet in both directions from your fire hydrant.  If the hydrant is still visible there, our troops can see it.  That’s what we’re looking for.
  2. CAN WE CONNECT HOSES?  We use hose that is 2 ½” in diameter 5” in diameter.  When those hoses are under pressure, they don’t turn corners very tightly.  If someone has installed fence posts, landscape rocks, or even utility transformers too close to the hydrant ports, we can’t make the connection.  Sure, we can use other ports but if we need all three ports for a big fire and can only use one or two, our ability to save property can be impeded.
  3. CAN WE TURN THE HYDRANT ON?  We use hydrant wrenches (called spanners) that average 18” long (turning a hydrant nut takes some leverage).  Safety calls for the firefighter to be behind the hydrant when turning it on.  So we need enough clearance for the wrench and the firefighter, with his gear on.  Consequently we need three feet of clear space around the outside of the hydrant.  That’s what Spokane County Code and the Washington State’s fire code both require.

As we come across hydrants that are not visible or are not accessible, we work with home owners to educate them on what our needs are, what the law requires and we try to find solutions.  A common view point is that if the hydrant is in my yard, it’s mine.  I can landscape around it any way I want.  The fact is that the water purveyor owns that fire hydrant and it’s there for the entire neighborhood, not just one home.  Ensuring we can find the fire hydrant and use it helps ensure your home, and your neighbors’ homes are protected should the need arise.

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