Arbor Heights fire aftermath: Some hydrants to be upgraded

Another followup today on the water-pressure/access problems that hampered firefighters in the early going on August 27th, when flames gutted an Arbor Heights home, sending black smoke so high into the sky that it could be seen for miles around. We have reported that Seattle Public Utilities, which is accountable for hydrants and water service, plans an “after-action review” with the Seattle Fire Department. And today, we just got word that SPU plans to take two steps for starters:

First, SPU spokesperson Susan Stoltzfus tells WSB, eleven hydrants in the area will be replaced with larger hydrants – she says those hydrants are attached to some of the area’s larger water mains, and could be upgraded to provide better water pressure. (Those 11 do not include the two hydrants that firefighters first tried to use on August 27, she says, because they are connected to smaller mains and just enlarging the hydrants wouldn’t do any good.) Second, she says SPU and SFD will decide on a way to make it obvious to firefighters which are the lower-pressure hydrants and which are the higher-pressure hydrants. These are not the only steps they’re going to take – that review is still ahead – but she says this is something they can do relatively quickly (within three months) to help.

(The family who rented the home, you may recall, was out of town when the fire happened; as we reported last week, they are continuing to get back on their feet.)

6 Replies to "Arbor Heights fire aftermath: Some hydrants to be upgraded"

  • Kelli S September 15, 2011 (5:15 pm)

    Doesn’t the color of the hydrant indicate the water pressure for each hydrant?

  • AJ September 15, 2011 (6:03 pm)


  • Babe September 15, 2011 (8:29 pm)

    Upgrading hydrants that are already on 6 or 8 inch mains won’t do any good. Also, it isn’t an issue with pressure. The problem isn’t pressure, it’s water volume. Those “bad” hydrants are “bad” not because of the hydrants themselves, it’s because the mains were 4 inches when they were new in the 60’s. Now, those 4 inch mains are closer to 2″ than 4″. Unless the mains are replaced, the problem will remain. A four inch main cannot supply the volume needed to fight a structure fire with multiple lines in operation.

  • Babe September 16, 2011 (4:23 am)

    The hydrants color does indicate a pressure range in psi. However, the color doesn’t indicate the size of the main. Volume and Pressure are different things. Both can be a problem, but in the case of arbor heights, it’s volume. There’s only one way to fix that – new, larger mains. There is no quick fix to that problem and spu knows it. The hangup is, who’s going to pay for it? I hope people don’t have to loose their homes or their lives because of an inadequate water system.

  • Jim September 16, 2011 (11:54 am)

    hydrant tops are usually red yellow or green depending on volume available. generally speaking 500 750 and 1000 gpm. some jurisdictions also paint the outlet caps with similar paint schemes for what the water mains pressure is at. If you drive down a street say near the top of any of the hills in west seattle, you will notice the top color change as you approach the top of the hill, some yellows and the occasional red.

  • ltfd September 16, 2011 (11:10 pm)

    In Seattle, all hydrants will eventually be painted yellow; it’s kind of a national standard. The color variations on the caps of some hydrants indicate available Pressure, not available Volume (gallons per minute).
    Since fire engines have a pump, they can increase the pressure so that adequate fire streams are created with the available water – 500 gallons in the fire engine’s storage tank, and additional water from the water mains, via a hose connected to the nearest hydrant (usually).
    When the water main(s) in an area don’t provide adequate flow/volume, it is difficult to control a large fire once the 500 gallon tank in the fire engine is depleted.

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