Do you have different colored tops on the fire hydrants in your neighborhood and wonder why some are blue, while others are green, orange or red?

“We follow the national standard,” Owensboro Fire Department Battalion Chief Steve Leonard said. The color indicates the number of gallons the hydrant can produce per minute, he said.

Blue indicates 1,500 gallons per minute; green is 1,000; orange is 500 to 999; and red is less than 500.

Obviously hydrants with blue tops, called bonnets, are the best, but “red doesn’t mean that’s bad,” Leonard said, because a hydrant with a larger water capability is just a block way.

Another source of water is through what’s called a dry hydrant. Leonard is a longtime proponent of “retention or detention basins.”

‘We’re on the New Madrid Fault,” he said, and fires often follow earthquakes. If the water system has been damaged, water can be pumped from the basins, he said.

The city’s fire protection system includes truck hoses that can reach from hydrant to hydrant.

The city and county fire departments use color to distinguish what hydrant belongs to what system.

“The city has yellow hydrants, and the county’s are red,” Leonard said. “That’s important for us because of hydrants on the fringe.”

Also, city and county hookups are different sizes.

The city hoses are bigger than the ones used in the county, he said.

A lot more goes into firefighting than answering a call. Preplanning is the key.

A warehouse fire is fought differently than one at a hospital or rest home. Before a crew is on site, a computerized system has informed them of the size of the building, how many occupants may be inside and the type of structure.

“Fire departments are like boxers,” Leonard said. Before fighters get into the ring, they’ve seen video of their opponent and have planned their strategy, “which improves their chance of success.”

The more firefighters know what they are facing, the more successful they will be, he said.


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