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How Many Fire Hydrants Are In Chicago? (And Why Are They All Red?)

By Justin Breen | April 12, 2017 5:44am | Updated on April 12, 2017 10:07am
 Two shots of newly painted hydrant with a yellow collar.  (Large photo) A new fire hydrant is installed next to the existing hydrant, but is supplied by the new water main. The old hydrant will be removed after the new main and hydrant are placed in service. The old hydrant will be refurbished, and placed back in service in a new location.
Two shots of newly painted hydrant with a yellow collar. (Large photo) A new fire hydrant is installed next to the existing hydrant, but is supplied by the new water main. The old hydrant will be removed after the new main and hydrant are placed in service. The old hydrant will be refurbished, and placed back in service in a new location.
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City of Chicago

CHICAGO — Chicago sets the "standard," so to speak, when it comes to its nearly 50,000 fire hydrants.

Chicago is one of the few cities in the world that has only one style of fire hydrant throughout its system. It's referred to as the "Chicago Standard" hydrant or "Chicago Twin" because it has two 4½-inch ports on the barrel head, said Gary Litherland, spokesman for the Chicago Department of Water Management.

Chicago for the first time this year received a the highest rating possible from the Insurance Services Office for the city's "superior ability to protect from, respond to and fight residential commercial fires," according to a news release.

That is in part due to the fact the city has so many fire hydrants — 48,209 at the last inventory, Litherland said.

Since they're placed about 300 feet apart, most Chicago homes are no more than 150 feet from a hydrant.

Also worth noting is all Chicago fire hydrants are red. That's to make it clear they are city-operated hydrants.

But they have a color designation on the top flange, Litherland said. The color designation "lets the Fire Department know the size of the water main that is supplying water to the hydrant," Litherland said.

For example, white is for water mains that are 6 inches in diameter or smaller. Litherland said the city is in the process of phasing out those smaller mains under Mayor Rahm Emanuel's “Build a New Chicago” water main-replacement program. Red identifies an 8-inch water main (the most common), while yellow is for water mains from 12-16 inches in diameter. Blue is for water mains that are larger than 16 inches.

"The color coding on the flange of the hydrants immediately lets the Fire Department personnel know which hydrant in the area can provide the greatest volume of water for fighting fires," Litherland said.

Litherland said Chicago started using the "Chicago Twin" system in the 1950s and completely converted the entire system in the early 1960s.

Litherland said every fire hydrant is checked once a year.

"This is done through a partnership with the Chicago Fire Department," he said. "Every fire house in Chicago checks the hydrants in its area to make sure that each hydrant is working properly. Any hydrants found to be faulty are reported to [the water department] and a crew is sent to repair or replace the hydrant."