...protecting the communities of Capitola, Live Oak and Soquel since 1987...



Fire Hydrant History

Early water systems used hollowed out logs for water mains.  The methods of obtaining water for fire fighting purposes was crude: pits dug at specific intervals to expose mains.  A hole was then dug and a wooden plug was inserted.  These plugs were known as fire plugs and this term is still commonly used to identify fire hydrants.  When a fire occurred, the plug was removed allowing water to fill the pit.  Fire apparatus took draft from the pit; however the flow of water from the pit was usually so meager that the system was seldom an effective aid to fire fighting.

Eventually, the use of cast iron pipe permitted system pressures to be increased, and this practice lead to the development of the post type fire hydrant.  An opening or hose connection at the upper end of the standpipe provided a place from which fire pumps received their supplies.

The first post type fire hydrant in the United States was designed around 1800.  It had both a hose connection and a faucet.  It also had a barrel that was always charged with water.

Fire Hydrant Maintenance 

The intent of the hydrant maintenance program is to maintain public fire hydrants in a ready condition through flushing, inspection, lubricating, cleaning, and painting as recommended by the National Fire Protection Association and reporting needed repairs to the appropriate water department on a semi annual basis or as required.

The main reason the fire department performed hydrant maintenance is to insure that they will function correctly at times of fire.  Fire engines hold a maximum of 5-6 minutes of water available for fire attack.  An improperly or non-functioning hydrant could cause a fire engine to run out of water.  If the fire engine runs out of water, it could endanger the lives of the firefighters fighting the fire inside a structure and increase the amount of fire damage to the structure.

Fire Hydrant Maintenance - Frequently Asked Questions:

Why does it take 3 or 4 firefighters to maintain a hydrant?
Firefighters do everything in groups of 3 or 4 in order to be able to respond to emergencies.  For example, if we have a structure fire we need 2 firefighters to operate the nozzle, maneuver the hose and enter the building and one to run the pump.  If we split personnel up the two firefighters on the scene would have to wait for the one doing hydrant maintenance to show up before they could begin emergency operations.

Why are some hydrant barrels yellow, and some red?
The yellow hydrants indicate public hydrants that are the responsibility of the local water districts (Santa Cruz City Water Department, Soquel Creek Water District).  The yellow hydrants we can use for training or emergency operations with out restriction.  Red hydrants are owned by private citizens and corporations.  We can only use these hydrants with owner permission or under emergency conditions.

What do the different color caps on the fire hydrant indicate?
The cap colors indicate to the responding fire companies how much water is available to that hydrant.  For example, a blue capped hydrant would mean that they have over 1500 gallons of water per minute (GPM) available for fire attack.  Green caps = 1000-1499 GPM, orange caps = 500-999 GPM, and red caps = 0-499 GPM.  These figures are important to firefighters as they can affect their method of fire attack.

Will hydrant maintenance discolor my water?
Very little water is flowing during hydrant maintenance so the possibility of water discoloration is slight but possible.

Is there anything I should be doing to help with fire hydrant maintenance?
The California Fire Code requires a 3 foot clearance around fire hydrants.  If you do not have the proper clearance, you should cut back any plants over-growing the hydrant or move any vehicle, fences, etc. that are within 3 feet of the hydrant.





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