Monday, February 06, 2012

Three Fire Hydrants

Walden, New York

This is getting to be enough of a theme to have its own label. There's something just a bit anthropomorphic about a fireplug. Plus, while they all look more or less the same, when you look closely you find a surprising amount of variation. This variation, especially in size, leads to surprising scale changes in relation to the hydrant's surroundings. All makes for quite an interesting visual game.

Liberty, New York

Liberty, New York

16 comments:

Martina said...

And this might be the right time to ask why some are so extremly short.
I was wondering about this since your last "short hydrant" posting.

Carl said...

Martina, I don't know if this is just a matter of style or if there are functional differences. I'll look into it. There's also the very different kind like this: http://workingpictures.blogspot.com/search?q=siamese

Martina said...

They _are_ cute little ... things.

Dennis said...

Ocassionally I'll catch a tv show which shows how various objects are made. One such episode followed how a fire hydrant is made. I was surprised to see how tall they are from top to bottom, easily 6 ft (2 meters). Understand that they are tied into the water main wherever that is below ground level. So a short hydrant could mean a deep water main.

Carl said...

Martina, I guess they range from cute to sort of robust or even brutal looking. I didn't get to do any online research today but will soon.

Dennis, that's an interesting thought. I wonder whether the water mains try to stay a constant distance from the surface in hilly terrain, or vary in depth with the ups and downs of the roadway/sidewalk?

Martina said...

Carl, of course today I couldn't resist to post a photo of a ... hydrant. An Italian one. Not a good photo, but hey ;-)

Sorry, couldn't help myself.

Now back to the Internet and reading more about dry vs. wet barrel hydrants ...

Martina said...

What I have learned so far is that in the US there are - unlike to Germany/Europe - many different manufactures of hydrants. Which might sell only locally. So perhaps the short ones are just a local variation in design?

Martina said...

http://www.firehydrant.org/ - one last addendum ;-)

Carl said...

Martina, that there are few or even just one hydrant manufacturer in Germany/Europe is the sort of thing that completely surprises an American. That is inconceivable here. Not especially because of free market nonsense, but simple practicality. Reading about the development of these things, they of course couldn't be invented until the industrial revolution, but they come quite soon after, before the transportation revolution. Since they are made of cast iron, these suckers have got to be HEAVY! Many factories scattered across the continent, each of which is fairly close to a source of raw material and to customers for the product just made sense, and probably still does. When an elderly unit lets go because it should have been replaced decades ago, you don't exactly want to FedEx the replacement in, even now.

Martina said...

There might be some more - I can name two for Germany ;-) - but of course I am no expert.

Photography-wise it's a shame because the hydrants all look more or less the same.

Carl said...

What about painting them? In Germany? It turns out that here, there is a color code which--when it is adhered to--lets firefighters instantly see the flow capacity of a particular hydrant based on the color of the "caps" and "bonnet" but of course this doesn't work if a town just up and decides to color up its fireplugs for purely aesthetic reasons. Ruining the code to make the hydrants pretty somehow doesn't strike me as something likely to happen over there ;-)

Martina said...

And some numbers regarding transport etc.:

14.357 km² = Connecticut
357.022 km²= Germany
423.970 km² = California
9.629.091 km² = USA

One other thing I forgot to mention: most of our hydrants are located below ground. Non-photographable, too ... .

Martina said...

I really don't know but I would assume it is totally against the law to paint fire hydrants ... I have never seen any other than red or red/white ones. The two types shown in the German wikipedia article are the only ones I have ever seen. Exactly these two types. Besides the special ones in Munich which are rare.

For the German mind different designs, different heights, different colours: that's chaos!
;-)

Carl said...

Right, Britain and Australia also have invisible connections for the most part. There's a plate in the paving over a valve down the hole to the main. So there has to be something on the truck that serves the purpose of a hydrant, to tap into the main. I wonder what the comparative efficiency is? Between removing a plate and hooking up a large device carried on the firetruck, vs. hooking up your hoses to the standing hydrant and then opening the deep valve on the bonnet. It's not idle since in firefighting, time is of the essence.

Martina said...

You cannot trip over them? You can have them everywhere, no obstacles to cars etc.?
On the other hand of course they can freeze or a car might park over them ...
But they might be simply cheaper to built and mantain?

Oii, who would have thought that hydrants are such interesting things ...

Carl said...

Parking near (exact distance varies) a hydrant is a big time fine, monetary value on the level of wild speeding as opposed to other parking violations which are token. That's because firehose once it is charged with high pressure water is very stiff, not to mention heavy, and you need at least ten feet of clearance from the hydrant to maneuver the hose in the right direction to get to the fire.

The 'dry barrel' design is needed anywhere there's a real winter (dry barrel, for everyone else, means the hydrant is empty and a valve at the underlying main has to be opened to fill it, after the hoses have been hooked up to it) but it also needs to be used in any urban situation where a vehicle may lurch onto the sidewalk and break off the hydrant. Sensibly, they are designed with sacrificial elements (think crush elements in a car) so that when this happens the sturdy cast iron little guy just gets tossed. The city crew then has to bring out a replacement kit for the breakaway parts and put the fireplug back in.