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We would be delighted to try and obtain an answer to any questions you might have regarding fire hydrants, whether of a technical or general nature. Below are recent questions and answers from the mailbag. If you have a question, Email Us.
  • The viewpoints expressed in this forum on these pages are those of the participants.
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  • #43 - I have a building under construction which is all wood. I was required to install a fire hydrant and was told I would need a sprinkler system as well. The sprinkler system cost is totally out of line for the actual use of the building. It is a dance studio, but because of the size of one floor, I originally received an assembly classification. We are re-visiting that decision and I have been told that I may not have to have to sprinklers, but would at least be required to add in another fire hydrant from another water source. Presently we have a 51/4" off of an 8" water source with 1500 gmp available. The building is only 4980 sq ft. This second hydrant seems excessive as well. Is there any place I can look that says recommended water availability for a commercial wood construction is X gmp per sq ft?

    There are some national standards for sprinkler and hydrant requirements however local codes and ordinances can supersede the national standards. Here is how I would approach this issue.

    1. Ask for a copy of the calculations that were made to ascertain the required fire flow. (A number of issues including building construction, use and separation distance from other buildings will be factors.) Ask for the code citations that were used to make the determination.

    2. Ask for a new flow test on the existing hydrant and send me the data. I'll see if their calculations are correct. They should provide you at minimum with:

  • Static pressure at the hydrant
  • Static pressure taken from the building or a nearby hydrant
  • Residual pressure at the hydrant
  • Residual pressure taken from the building or a nearby hydrant
  • Pitot pressure
  • Observed flow
  • Available flow calculated using the Hazen-Williams formula
  • From there we can have some idea where you stand.

    Willis Lamm, Water Supply Officer
    Moraga-Orinda Fire District

    #44 - How do I determine the distance of a fire hydrant in respect to a building? How do I also determine the nearest fire station to a building?

    Some local jurisdictions may have their own take on this, however the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) standards state:


    Prior to the construction of buildings or portions thereof, all site plans shall be reviewed. At this time the authority having jurisdiction shall review the fire flow required and designate spacing of hydrants according to the following schedule:

    (a) There shall be at least one hydrant within 300 ft (92 m) of any building at a location acceptable to the authority having jurisdiction.

    (b) No portion of the exterior walls of the building shall be more than 200 ft (61.6 m) from a hydrant, where vehicular access is provided.

    (c) Additional hydrants shall be provided to meet the remaining fire flow, if necessary.

    (d) In areas of one- and two-family dwellings, hydrants shall be located a maximum of 660 ft (200 m) vehicle travel distance apart.


    In most applications this would be measured in direct travel distance by foot. That assumes no impenetrable obstructions such as hedges, fences, walls, etc., exist between the hydrant and the structure. The applicable logic is that fire crews could reach the building dragging 300 or 200 ft. of hose respectfully from a fire engine operating at the hydrant.

    > How do I also determine the nearest fire station to a building?

    Shortest over the road travel distance from the nearest station to the building via the shortest practical all-weather route of travel.

    Willis Lamm, Water Supply Officer
    Moraga-Orinda (CA) FD

    #45 - I live in a rural area in Western, Virginia. The fire department is about 5-6 miles away. My insurance agent told me that if I had a fire hydrant somewhat close to where we live, it would reduce my insurance premium significantly. My well is providing about 50+ gallons/minute. Does anyone have any information pertaining to hooking up a fire hydrant next to a well? My electrical transformer is close to the well, so I can dedicate a separate power source for the well pump besides the electrical from the house.

    I think the key issue here is going to be flow capacity. Ordinarily 250 GPM is the minimum that is recognized, but ask your insurance agent to be sure.

    In most cases like this the property owner installs a 5,000 gallon storage tank. If you live in hill country, it could be set up on the hillside to gravity feed to the hydrant. Then you'd also have water available to you for domestic use if the power was out.

    4" Schedule 40 PVC pipe is generally sufficient to supply a hydrant.

    Willis Lamm, Water Supply Officer
    Moraga-Orinda (CA) Fire District

    #46 - I live in a community in Southwest Virginia that was built after the turn of the century by a railroad company. Years later the homes were sold to individuals wanting to live in the area. The local town provides water and sewer to this community, which is not in the towns corporation limits. Time has caused the deterioration of the hydrants. Some have been removed, by town authorities, and not replaced, but we as local residents continue to pay the fire department for a yearly fire contract. The fire department is totally voluntary and the town maintains the upkeep of all the water lines. Should we continue to pay for this contract? What obligation does the town, county, state have in the upkeep of the hydrants? We feel as if our money is wasted. How do we get new hydrants?

    The Uniform Fire Code does not permit abandonment of fire service facilities without approval of the Fire Chief having jurisdiction. If you are paying fees to the fire department (visa vis a protection contract) you might have some leverage there. Some states also regulate this area in their Health and Safety Codes. I'm not sure what these are in Virginia.

    It is not uncommon for communities to create special service districts in order to fund replacement of aging and obsolete infrastructure. If, for example, the town's water works took over the old railroad system and its acquisition documents indicate that it doesn't have any legal obligation to maintain it, then you may be in a catch-22 situation. A special district could be formed for the purpose of collecting taxes to be used to maintain the water system. The District could be all volunteer, basically a holding organization, that would pay the town water works for improvements and overhauls that the local citizens want. The big carrot here is that the district might qualify for federal improvement grants which would possibly bring in the big bucks necessary to bring you back up to standards.

    The rural town where I live was in pretty much the same pickle. The town isn't incorporated but formed a water improvement district. The lion's share of the improvements, including fire hydrants, came from a Federal block grant. Then the town found a contractor that was willing to let the townspeople do some of the work so we could accomplish everything with the funds available.

    Hope these ideas are useful.

    Willis Lamm, Water Supply Officer
    Moraga-Orinda (CA) Fire District

    #47 - I am a fire commissioner for a very small fire department (volunteer). My question is "I would like to see the State or Federal regulations regarding the testing of and/or checking the flow of water in fire hydrants. We deal with a private water company that we have a maintenance contract with who says that we cannot check any water flow or anything else regarding his hydrants unless he is personally there. The owner lives 5 hours away and is not cooperative. Thank you for your assistance in solving this problem.

    The Uniform Fire Code (if adopted in your county), the NFPA standards, AWWA manual M-17 and the California Health and Safety Code all address these issues. I'm on vacation but I'll look up the citations when I return to duty. I need to check on this but I don't think the provisions you mention in the maintenance contract are enforceable except in cases where an action by the fire district would compromise the potability of the water under EPA standards. (For example if flow testing caused turjidity and the system required flushing afterwards, that is a valid argument for requiring a certified water company operator to be present to verify water quality compliance after a test.) With respect to required annual hydrant inspections and flushing, I think he would have to prove that letting you do so would cause his system to fall out of compliance in order to supersede the authority and jurisdiction of the Fire Chief, and I don't see how that would be provable.

    Here are some relative web documents for you.

    Some of them include code citations. As I indicated, I will find California applicable regulations for you when I return to work. In the meanwhile you need to verify that the Uniform Fire Code has been adopted by your county. An area building inspector or fire inspector should know.

    ":O) Willis Lamm, Water Supply Officer
    Moraga-Orinda Fire District
    (Contra Costa County)

    #48 - I work for a fire protection company in Las Vegas, Nevada, I have seen blue dot reflector indicators for fire hydrants in apartment complexes throughout the city, I can't find any info in NFPA standards. These blue reflectors are usually 10 to 12 feet away from the fire hydrant in the street or drive area of the complexes. Any help in finding a code or requirement for them would be greatly appreciated.

    Typically street marking devices are regulated by the traffic codes or street marking manuals of each state. Here are practical references from California (that I believe also comply with DOT guidelines.)

    ":O) Willis Lamm, Water Supply Officer
    Moraga-Orinda FD

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