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How to Measure Your Car’s Distance From a Fire Hydrant

How Far Do You Need To Park From A Fire Hydrant?

You are not allowed to park within three metres (nine feet) of a fire hydrant, or you will be fined if caught. This is applicable in all municipalities across Ontario. You can also get a ticket if you are parked to load or unload near a fire hydrant.

The three metre rule exists so fire crews can see hydrants from the street and park as close as possible to access the hydrants when working on extinguishing a fire.

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Historical inventions and innovations

Before the modern fire hydrant, a primitive fire suppression system was to bury a wooden water pipe (often no more than a hollowed out log) along the streets.

In the event of a fire, teams would dig down to the buried wooden water main and auger a hole in the pipe. And out would come the water to fill buckets with the water, and start a bucket brigade to extinguish the fire. When they were finished, they would need to hammer a wooden plug into the log to stop the flow of water. Hence the origin of the term “fire plug.”

The version of fire hydrants used today were invented by Birdsill Holly of Lockport, New York for his prodigious contributions to the field of hydraulic engineering in the 19th Century. While Holly was only one of many involved in the development of the fire hydrant, innovations he introduced are largely responsible for the fire hydrant taken for granted today. At Holly Manufacturing, he designed machinery for the Lockport water works that allowed water to be pumped under pressure into city mains without a reservoir. Shortly thereafter, Holly came up with his first design for a fire hydrant. Holly’s Fire Protection and Water System, an integrated system designed to deliver water under a steady pressure for public safety, brought him worldwide fame in 1863. The system was widely adapted throughout the United States and Canada, and established the standard upon which all current, water distribution systems are based upon. In 1869, Holly was issued U.S. patent #94749, for an “improved fire hydrant”.[6]

How far can I park the car from a fire hydrant?

It is known to us that a car has to be at a minimum distance of one meter from the fire hydrant to not face any legal consequences but states like California have stated that a car should be parked at a minimum distance of 15 feet from the hydrant.

Other than this, a public bus driver can park in front of a fire hydrant if and only if he does not leave the bus on its own. The same rule applies to taxi drivers too. They can also park in front of the hydrant only if they are there in their vehicle.

How Do Fire Hydrants Work?

The firefighter will attach a supply hose to the hydrant. Once this is attached, they open a valve on the hydrant to provide a flow of water. This is much, much powerful than the flow of water in a typical garden hose and can easily reach 50 lbs. square inch.  

The precise pressure depends on the hydrant, the location of the main, the hose in use, etc. it is not completely fixed.

When the hose is connected to the hydrant it might use a quick connector, a Storz connector (invented by a chap called Storz and which is a standard in German firefighting) or a good old fashioned thread connector. See the picture below. 

One reason that you should be trained to use a fire hydrant before you open one is that if you open it or close it faster than it should be, you can create what is known as a “water hammer” (that is a rapid surge of water within the system) which can break the pipes, the local equipment and more.

It’s also worth noting that once water is inside a hose, it is “charged” and it’s harder to direct a charged hose than an uncharged one. So, it’s important to position the hose correctly prior to connecting it to the hydrant. 

There are very few hydrants which are designed to offer any user control to the level of water flow – they are simply “on” or “off”. This means that they should always be operated fully open. Failing to do so risks water leakage into the soil surrounding the fire hydrant. This can cause unpleasant scouring of the area. 

If the output from a hydrant needs to be controlled. It is possible to install a valve between the hydrant and the hose. In fact, it’s considered to be a good idea to install valves because the protective caps on a hydrant are prone to failure and they can cause serious injury to the firefighter when they fail. 

A firefighter working with a hydrant should always use the right personal protective equipment (PPE) which should include gloves and a helmet with some form of face shielding. 

Be careful with old, corroded hydrants it’s possible for them to break while in use and injure firefighters.

Finally, many modern fire hydrants are fitted with sockets that need special tools to open them with, they can’t easily be opened by any passerby. 

Fire Hydrant Operation:

4.1 Turning On:

Firefighters must be proficient in operating A fire hydrant. These

steps should be considered while opening a hydrant;

  1. Remove the blanking cap from the outlet.
  2. Check that the remaining outlet blanking caps are snugly attached.
  3. Attach the hose to the hydrant outlet.
  4. Place the hydrant wrench on the stem nut (valve) check the opening arrow direction.
  5. When instructed to do so by your officer or the pump operator, start the flow of water. Turn the wrench to fully open the valve.
  6. Open the hydrant slowly to avoid a pressure surge, once the flow of water has begun, you can open the valve more quickly.

4.2 Turning Off/ Shut Down a Hydrant:

  1. Turn the hydrant’s stem nut (valve) slowly with the wrench until the valve is closed.
  2. Slowly and carefully disconnect the hose from an outlet. Replace the hydrant’s outlet’s blanking cap.
  3. Replace the hydrant’s outlet’s blanking cap.

Appearance

A fire hydrant in Demorest, Georgia painted with an American patriotic theme.

A German fire hydrant showing Storz hose connections

Hydrant coloring may be due either to purely practical criteria or more artistic. In the United States, the AWWA and NFPA recommend hydrants be colored chrome yellow for rapid identification apart from the bonnet and nozzle caps which should be coded according to their available flow. Class AA hydrants (>1500 gpm) should have their nozzle caps and bonnet colored light blue, Class A hydrants (1000–1499 gpm), green, Class B hydrants (500–999 gpm), orange, and Class C hydrants (0–499 gpm), red. This aids arriving firefighters in determining how much water is available and whether to call for additional resources, or locate another hydrant. Other codings can be and frequently are used, some of greater complexity, incorporating pressure information, others more simplistic. In Ottawa, hydrant colors communicate different messages to firefighters; for example, if the inside of the hydrant is corroded so much that the interior diameter is too narrow for good pressure, it will be painted in a specific scheme to indicate to firefighters to move on to the next one. In many localities, a white or purple top indicates that the hydrant provides non-potable water. Where artistic and/or aesthetic considerations are paramount, hydrants can be extremely varied, or more subdued. In both instances this is usually at the cost of reduced practicality.

In Germany, most hydrants are located below ground (Unterflurhydrant) and are accessed by a Standrohr which provides the connections for the hoses.

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