Crews mark fire hydrants with lower water flow

by: David Ham Updated:

Seattle Public Utilities worker places red ring on a low flow hydrant.

Seattle - Starting this week, Seattle Public Utilities will be putting red rings on fire hydrants with a water flow of less than 500 gallons per minute.

"You roll up on something that's a huge emergency, of course you have it on a map but it's very easy to put something like this on a fire hydrant. It's easy to make it obvious to everyone on that job and on that fire response," said Lin Ruchty of Seattle Public Utilities.

There are about 70 hydrants with this problem across Seattle.

Seattle Public Utilities says it's linked to older mains which have a tendency to produce a lower water flow.

However, SPU doesn't think the hydrants with a lower output will hurt firefighters on the scene of a fire.

Ruchty says there are 18,000 fire hydrants in Seattle and there is at least one with an output of at least 1,000 gallons per minute within 1,000 feet of a lower output hydrant.

"There's absolutely no reason to be concerned about them at all," said Ruchty.

Firefighters already have a map of where all of the
low-output hydrants are in the city.

"It's not a perfect solution but it's definitely a step in the right direction," said Rick 
Kowal, who lives in the Arbor Heights neighborhood of West Seattle.

In August of 2011, his neighbor's house burned down because firefighters didn't know the hydrant in front of his house had a low output.

Roxane Anderson also lives nearby and
says the red rings would be more like a red flag if she were shopping for a house.

"I would move on, 
I really would because I watched my neighbor's house burn to the ground," said Anderson.

After that fire, Seattle Public Utilities added new water mains and 19 new fire hydrants in that area at a cost of $1.8 million.

SPU says upgrading all of the water mains across the city would be too expensive. That's why it worked with the Seattle Fire
Department on this idea.

"It's something that's really easy to do and it's fairly economical," said Ruchty.

SPU says all of the red rings should be installed by the end of the month.