Why Proper Yearly Maintenance Is Critical When the Hydrant Is in Use during a Fire

Interviewer: What happens if there’s a fire? Is there any work needed to reset the hydrant back to its pre-fire state?

David Munoz: If there’s a fire they don’t have any mechanism inside that would actually slow them down or speed them up. Basically, they open up full bore or they’ll just not open at all. Sometimes they’ll open partially. This is what’s critical about maintenance.

Dry-Barrel Hydrants Take 19 Turns to Open Fully; Improperly Maintained Hydrants May Not Function When They Are Most Needed

You can open a hydrant and when you get about halfway, you’re supposed to get about 19-and-a-half turns on a hydrant roughly. It takes 19 to 20 turns to fully open on a dry barrel hydrant. There’s a difference between those two terms. There’s a wet barrel and a dry barrel and I’ll explain that in a minute.

If you open up a hydrant 19 turns it’s operating at full open bore. The water is coming out. But, it is possible that when firefighter might experience an issue because of lack of maintenance. They’ll hook up their fire hose, they’ll go to turn that hydrant on, they get 2 to 3 turns, and it breaks on them. At that point, the operator nob doesn’t do anything at that point because it broke the coupling. That scenario is completely attributed to lack of maintenance.

If a Hydrant Will Not Operate Properly the Firefighters Have to Travel to another Hydrant, Which Takes Time Away from Fighting the Fire

At that point, they’ll tag it. It’s very critical because they have to disconnect from that hydrant. They have to run to the next nearest hydrant, which approximately sometimes are between 500 to 600 feet apart. That’s the standard. Now, you’re pulling the hose another 500 to 600 feet.

Interviewer: What happens if a hydrants working properly and a fire happens, they use it, then they stop? They finish and they cap it off. Will the hydrant need new service or it’s ready to go for the next time?

David Munoz: It’s ready to go for the next time.

Some Facilities and Municipalities Are Subject to Fines for Improper Maintenance of Hydrants

Interviewer: Are facilities and municipalities subject to being cited by the fire departments or the city or the state for improper hydrant maintenance? What will happen if they’re not in compliance?

David Munoz: It depends on which city you live in. I can’t speak for other states. I can tell you what happens here. An example, if you live in parts of Arizona, you have the fire department. They’ll go out and inspect their private hydrants, which they’re owned by the customers. If they find a discrepancy on them, they might red tag them and then go get a hold of the owners and say, “You have a hydrant and you need to get it repaired.” They give them the option.

Some fire departments enforce compliance differently than others. Some might give the hydrant owner 30 days to fix it and if they don’t fix it within 30 days there could be a fine imposed.

Hydrants Must Be Well Maintained within the First 5 to 6 Years of Installation to Ensure a Lengthy Lifespan

Interviewer: How long will a neglected hydrant be okay before it starts to malfunction in your experience?

David Munoz: If you don’t’ maintenance a hydrant probably in the first 5 to 6 years, that’s when you’re going to start having trouble with that hydrant. First 5 or 6 years you’ll start having some trouble. It’ll probably be functional still up until the 7th, 8th, or 9th year. The problem is they get harder to turn. A hydrant should be able to really spin it with a little bit of tension behind it, but not very hard because if they’re too hard to turn it’s going to take you forever to open them.

Part of the maintenance is to make sure they’re greased and lubricated with food-grade grease. They don’t get lubricated with regular oil or grease. It has to be a food grade that they use on restaurants or manufactures that make a food product because some of the hydrants are, like I said, they are tied in to the domestic drinking water and you don’t want to just put regular oil or grease on a hydrant.

Some Hydrants Are Reclaim Hydrants

Interviewer: What if they use drinking water instead of just gray water?

David Munoz: That’s a good question. Some of them have a reclaim hydrant. Usually if they do that, they’re usually painted a different color. Usually they’re painted purple on some areas, but they’re not really for fighting fires. They use them for maybe lakes. Put them around lakes to fill up a like or whatever because it’s not really treated water for one. It is wastewater, so it’s not something you just want to keep throwing out on the street.

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