Color-coded fire hydrants: What do they mean?

Published: Nov. 6, 2017 at 8:45 PM MST
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Have you noticed that there are different colored fire hydrants throughout the Grand Valley? It's not just for your viewing pleasure... It turns out, they actually mean something.

"Traditionally in the fire service, there are four different colors of the caps of the fire hydrant," said Frank Frappier a Grand Junction firefighter. "You have red, you have orange, you have green and you have blue."

So to break it down, let's start with something familiar--red.

"Our red fire hydrants are normally put out 0-500 gallons per minute," said Ron Key, the water maintenance supervisor for Grand Junction. "It's our lowest flow fire hydrant that's in our system."

While that sounds like a lot, a typical fire truck pump holds about 500 gallons, and they run out of water in about 15 seconds.

"Most of our red fire hydrants are found in our residential areas in our older part of town, where the pipelines were probably put in in the 1950s," Key said.

There are only six red-topped fire hydrants in the Grand Junction district.

There are only 20 orange hydrants in the Grand Junction district.

"Our orange fire hydrants flow from 500 to 1,000 gallons a minute," Key said.

Then there are 86 green hydrants in the system which key calls 'second best.' The green hydrants push between 1,000 and 1,500 gallons of water per minute.

The real hero hydrant and most available hydrant in town is the blue hydrant. There's more than 1,000 of them scattered on street corners throughout Grand Junction.

"They put out over 1,500 gallons a minute at 20 PSI flow rate," Key said.

"So ideally, it'd be nice to always have a blue hydrant or one with the most pressure possible," Frappier said.

The Grand Junction district covers mostly downtown, and it's the only district out of Palisade, Clifton, Grand Junction and Ute Water to totally color coordinate the hydrants to the water pressures.

"Here in the Grand Valley, there are multiple water companies, and each water company has a different painting system," Frappier said.

Hydrants with green bodies and yellow tops belong to the largest water provider in the area...the Ute Water Conservancy District.

"We have about 4,200 fire hydrants in our distribution system," said Joseph Burtard, a spokesperson for the district.

Their hydrants stretch all the way to the Utah border.

"Of those 4,200 in the distribution system, about 90 to 95 percent of them go over 1,100 gallons of water per minute," Burtard said.

Grand Junction is the only one to use the yellow bodies and colored tops.

"Well yellow is more visible for one reason," Key said. "When we first started painting color codes, we must have been somewhere by Green Bay Packer fans because they were excited we were painting them Green Bay Packer colors."

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