Detroit – 175 years ago (1837)
The first cast iron fire hydrant was installed at the corner of Jefferson and Woodward.
For all those Detroit Firefighters that hate “Hydrant Season“ ……..….. It could be worse!
Old School Hydrant Season
Not that long ago (prior to 1967), guys would go out by themselves (walking or in their own car) to do hydrants. They used a hand pump to provide the air pressure to blow them out. You can imagine how much they would have to pump to compensate for the pressure lost from bad blow out tubes and leaky caps.
Things were getting better
After 1967 they went with the rigs, but with the same hand pump.
Some of the rigs had air breaks. They weren’t officially allowed to hook in to the brake system to do hydrants, but we all know they did. Firefighters find some of the most creative ways to solve problems.
Eventually rigs were all “retrofitted” or produced with the air line hookups being used today.
So the next time you find yourself swearing at a hydrant because it’s taking so long to blow out and you’re freezing your backside off, REMEMBER…. You could be swearing at a hydrant and working up a sweat pumping a hand pump.
For our non-DFD readers:
Hydrant Season for Detroit Fire starts in October. With freezing weather coming the main purpose of hydrant season is to remove water in the hydrant so it doesn’t freeze and make the hydrant unusable. Each company is responsible checking a designated area of hydrants once a month. Some districts are so large, some companies go out every work day for an hour or two just to get through their assigned areas each month.
Some of the information for this post comes from:
- Wayne Isken who served DFD from 1962 to 1998. Check out his website waynesstuff.weebly.com and on detroitfirefighters.net . Both sites have loads of great info.
- “Detroit Fire Department 1701-2007” a book available from the Detroit Firemen’s Fund Association. They also have DFD shirts and other DFD swag for sale. www.detroitfiremensfund.com
The following additional information was posted 12-04-2012.
Courtousy of Wayne Isken:
Besides a regular pressure pump to pump out hydrants we had a suction pump. If the hydrant had a minimum air leak we kept on pumping until it felt like our arms would fall off. But if it was a bad leaker we went back to the engine house and got the suction pump. It had a black garden hose about three feet long that you stuck down the hydrant and you sucked the water on the upstroke of the pump. The water came out from a short 1 & 1/2 ft hose on the opposite side of the pump.
When we got the rigs with air breaks we couldn’t use them to pump out the hydrants as there wasn’t any fitting to hook up the hose to. It was a while before the apparatus division installed the fitting.
When we went on hydrants with the rigs and we had some young whippersnappers on the back end they, at times, ran from hydrant to hydrant ahead of their rig. This was to show that they were in good shape & also on some street it was hard to maneuver the rig due to blocked cars.
Be talking to you soon.
Sheryl Jayson(a.k.a. Sheryl Fox)
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