Courtesy of SPU
Seattle Public Utilities is placing red rings on low-flow fire hydrants, many in West Seattle and the Arbor Heights neighborhood, to help firefighters quickly identify them.

SPU marking ‘low-flow’ hydrants in West Seattle

Seattle Public Utilities has begun marking low-flow fire hydrants throughout Seattle with a red ring that will help firefighters quickly identify those that deliver less than 500 gallons of water per minute.

Seventy hydrants throughout the city are deemed low flow by SPU, and many are located in West Seattle – primarily the Arbor Heights neighborhood.

“Low-flow hydrants are fully operational, but output less water per minute than other hydrants,” according to an SPU press release. “The clearly marked hydrants aid firefighters by helping ensure that the best fire-suppression tactics are chosen when operating a low-flow hydrant.”

The issue of low-flow hydrants came into focus in August of 2011 when an Arbor Heights home burst into flames while the family was away on vacation (spontaneous combustion of flammable materials in the garage was to blame). Firefighters arrived to find the hydrants near the blaze were inadequate for fighting the towering flames, forcing them to relay several miles of hose from adequate sources over a five-block radius. By the time the fire was brought under control, it was a total loss.

The history of Arbor Heights issue, according to SPU director Ray Hoffman in a presentation to Seattle’s City Council in 2011, was that the area was annexed by Seattle in 1954 with substandard water mains.

“For the past few years, the Seattle Fire Department (SF ) has been working in partnership with Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) to achieve greater fire protection in Arbor Heights,” Seattle Fire spokesman Kyle Moore wrote in an email. “Since 2011, SPU has updated the water mains, added fire hydrants and has installed red rings to clearly identify low-flow hydrants. These additional measures assist the Seattle Fire Department with our fire suppression tactics and also provide an increased level of safety and fire protection to the residents in Arbor Heights.

“Each Seattle Fire Engine carries 500 gallons of water, enough to extinguish an entire room fire,” he added. “Also every fire engine is equipped with 1000 feet of hose line. This is enough hose to reach the 1000 gallons-per-minute (gpm) hydrants which SPU has placed within 1000 feet of all residences in the city.”

SPU plans to have all low-flow hydrants marked by the end of May.

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