Why red rings might be coming to fire hydrants near you

More utility news tonight: Seattle Public Utilities plans to start work tomorrow to ensure that the city’s remaining low-flow fire hydrants are clearly identifiable. It’s an issue that came glaringly to light during the August 2011 fire that destroyed a home in Arbor Heights while firefighters struggled to get an appropriate water flow. That area has seen hydrant and water-line upgrades since then, and the city reported later that year that it was working on how to clearly mark the low-flow hydrants that remain in service within city limits, about half of them in West Seattle. Here’s the SPU announcement:

Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) crews will install a red reflective ring on low-flow fire hydrants in your neighborhood. Low-flow hydrants are defined as those that deliver less than 500 gallons of water per minute.

The red ring provides a distinct and very visible way for Seattle Fire Department personnel to quickly and easily identify low-flow hydrants in cases of emergency.

Low-flow hydrants are fully operational, but output less water per minute than other hydrants.

The clearly marked hydrants aid firefighters by helping ensure that the best fire-suppression tactics are chosen when operating a low-flow hydrant.

More than 18,000 fire hydrants are located throughout the City of Seattle, of which about 70 are classified as low-flow hydrants and will be tagged with the red ring.

Dates/Times: Crews will begin installing the rings the week of May 20 and expect to have all low-flow hydrants throughout the city marked by the end of May 2013.

If you have questions about this work, please contact SPU Hydrant Crew Chief Charles Jackson at (206) 396-1826 or charles.jackson@seattle.gov.

SPU’s Ingrid Goodwin says about half those 70 low-flow hydrants are in West Seattle. We’re hoping to hear tomorrow about a map or list of their locations – but please let us know if and when you see any of these rings being installed in your area!

13 Replies to "Why red rings might be coming to fire hydrants near you"

  • Que May 20, 2013 (8:50 am)

    Low-flow hydrants are fully operational, except for the part where they are less functional.

  • Chris W May 20, 2013 (10:10 am)

    Yeah, I’m confused as to why we have low flow hydrants if the point of hydrants is to put out fires.

  • MeanODeanO May 20, 2013 (11:09 am)

    Maybe the Fire Dept could warn us all to not take showers when there is a fire call? They could use reverse 911 or something to notify.. ;-)

  • Rod Clark May 20, 2013 (11:43 am)

    It’s not necessarily the hydrants that are restricting the flow. Supposedly, a hydrant with two 2 1/2″ outlets is capable of 500 gpm, but that sounds like a pretty small hydrant. Generally the problem has been the deterioration of some of the ancient water pipes.

    The gradual buildup over a very long period of time of corrosion, scale, tubercules and crud inside some of the smaller diameter century-old pipes in places like Arbor Heights eventually restricted the maximum flow so that it was enough for your faucet, but not enough for the Fire Dept. to put out a fire. After they cleaned out or replaced many of those bad old pipes, ineffective hydrants became capable of better flow.

    Less than 500 gpm is still substandard, so expect the Water Dept. to continue working on this in the next few years.

  • Pete T May 20, 2013 (2:00 pm)

    Hydrants exist so the water system can be tested and flushed; they’re made available to fire departments as a courtesy since it’s so tedious to haul water from our lakes to a fire scene. Therefore, low-flow hydrants ARE fully operational, just not very useful to FDs.

  • DTK May 20, 2013 (2:39 pm)

    Sounds like the perfect time to build five gargantuan mixed-use apartment complexes.

  • westseattledood May 20, 2013 (3:32 pm)

    That phone number listed is probably not correct. Sent me to a very nice but confused guy at Evergreen-Washelli Cemetery.

  • rico May 20, 2013 (3:36 pm)

    SPU has been aware of the badly tuberculated pipe in in various areas of Seattle for years and are choosing to identify them now in lieu of actually fixing the water mains.

    Don’t be surprised if your property insurance rates increase as the insurance industry begins to realize the high risk of fire loss in Seattle due to poor fire flow.

    And in the event of significant fires losses due to poor fire flow you can also expect your tax dollars to settle subrogration from the insurances company losses.

    • WSB May 20, 2013 (3:54 pm)

      I did get a map from SPU and am checking on it right now for addition to this story. – TR

  • westseattledood May 20, 2013 (4:24 pm)

    Kind of what I am concerned about Rico.

  • ltfd May 20, 2013 (4:52 pm)

    “Hydrants exist so the water system can be tested and flushed; they’re made available to fire departments as a courtesy since it’s so tedious to haul water from our lakes to a fire scene.”
    Actually, fire hydrants are not available as a “courtesy”, they are required by law. See the 2009 SFC, Section 507.

  • JO May 20, 2013 (5:18 pm)

    Am I reading the map incorrectly or does it seem like a majority of low flow hydrants are in Arbor Heights? Seems like that could be a bit of an issue since that’s where the house fire with ‘not enough water’ was located. Do you know if there is a schedule to upgrade some of the low flow hydrants in Arbor Heights in addition to marking them?

  • Ingrid Goodwin May 21, 2013 (10:23 am)

    @westseattledood – thank you for alerting us about the incorrect phone number in the public notice. The correct phone number to call for questions about the hydrant work that Seattle Public Utilities crews will be performing is (206) 386-1826.

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