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Fire plug colors have a meaning
new deh city hydrant flushing second  pic
City of Great Bend Water Department maintenance crew members Lance Ward and Rob Zimmerman, left and right, work with Supervisor Joe Tracy on routine fire hydrant maintenance, - photo by COURTESY PHOTO

What do the fire hydrant colors mean?

The City of Great Bend Water Department has color coded all fire hydrants based on water outflow. The top bonnets of each hydrant are painted to represent flow. Blue means (1,500 or greater gallons per minute) “very good”; green (1,000-1,499 GPM) is “good”; orange (500-999 GPM) is “marginally adequate”; and red (0-500 GPM) is “minimal.” 

City officials stressed, however, even a “minimal” hydrant is adequate to handle fire fighting.

 The color of the tops, or bonnets, of each of the city’s 500-plus red fire plugs has a story to tell.

“We have color-coded all fire hydrants based on water outflow,” said Charlie Suchy, utility superintendent. This flow ranges from 1,500 down to 500 gallons per minute, and the different colors denote that – from blue to green to orange and down to red.

A hydrant is considered minimal if it spews less than 500 gallons of water a minute. “We like to see orange, green or blue,” Suchy said. The ideal classification for a fire hydrant is 1,500 gallons or more.

But, just because a hydrant is red does not mean firefighters can’t battle a blaze successfully, it just gives them the available flow so they can adjust accordingly.

Great Bend has 10 water wells inside the city with 580 hydrants, Suchy said. The city uses only three wells under normal conditions and that is enough to feed the city’s 90-mile closed loop of water lines.

By state law, a municipality must maintain system-wide water pressure of at least 20 pounds per square inch. But, in the event of a fire or other large water use, that pressure can drop.

So, “we have the capability to turn on additional wells if needed when additional flows are needed,” he said. Many will kick in automatically.

In addition, the city is in the process of installing variable-frequency drive controllers on all its wells, These VFDs will allow the city to maintain a more consistent water pressure.

There are also two water wells and a water tower at the Great Bend Municipal Airport with 60 hydrants, including the Expo area. But, Suchy said, this system is separate from the city proper.

In 2011 Suchy’s department painted all fire hydrants red, keeping in mind the goal to color code all fire hydrants in 2012.

Now, crews are out touching up the paint.

All color coding is according to the National Fire Protection Association standards and the four colors are standard colors for bonnets to indicate the hydrant’s available flow at 20 psi. “We have a lot of inquiries from citizens wanting to landscape around the fire hydrant or paint their own colors,” he said. “Please remember the color coding procedures the city uses, and when landscaping.”

Also, the fire department requires and needs full access. The hydrant needs at least three feet of clear area around it and “be in full visual view.”

All maintenance of the hydrants is handled by the Water Department and include flushing, inspection/inventory, repair, and replacement as needed.