A fire hydrant’s been a fire hydrant for a long time. In fact, they’ve all looked and functioned basically the same for 100 years, according to ABC.
That has changed. Here’s the new kid:
And the old fart:I noticed the new guy when I was driving through Boynton Beach, FL the other day. It’s the Sigelock SPARTAN Hydrant, designed by veteran New York City Firefighter George Sigelakis. It’s been around for a year or so and is made of stainless steel and ductile iron and has a powder coating that makes it resistant to rust and corrosion.
And, of course, not any old pipe wrench will work on it. It needs a special, Sigelock opening tool.
I wonder how long before those special opening tools are on sale at the hardware store? The company is apparently confident the answer is NEVER. According to its website: “Sigelock Systems’ Spartan fire hydrant system has become UL certified. With this certification, the Spartan is now recognized as the most secure fire hydrant in the world.” That’s a pretty big leap that I am not sure even UL would agree with. I took a look at the UL certification and the best I could find is that it was “Tamper-Resistant,” nothing there about most secure in the world.
But, whatever. It’s the first new design in 100 years, so why quibble with a little bragging? Below is what the bragging rights look like on the company website. The device shown is the special opening tool. Most folks wouldn’t have one laying around I suspect.And all my nitpicking aside, the Spartan does appear to be way more functional than the old design. For the curious, there is tons of technical info on the website.
In case you’re wondering why I’m spending my valuable time writing about this new hydrant design, let me explain:
I spent one summer, in my college years, painting every fire hydrant in the town of Kankakee, Illinois, for the Kankakee Water Company. I probably knew at the time just how many there were, but my memory of it all is fuzzy and that fact is now missing. I do remember driving a small dump truck all over town carrying out this job because that was the only spare vehicle they had available for me.
My memories of that dump truck are vivid, because it was the first time I had ever been presented the challenge of driving a stick shift. And there I was, being handed the keys in the busy water company garage and being told to take it out right away because they needed the space for something else. I remember to this day thanking my stars for that booklet in high school driver’s education class that explained, complete with illustrations, just how a clutch worked and how to manage the clutch, gearshift and gas pedal all together.
So, with visions of spinning clutch plates dancing in my head, I climbed into the driver’s seat, started the engine and crept away down the alley very slowly in first gear, afraid to try to shift into second gear while still within sight and sound of the garage. Once around the corner I found a parking lot and practiced a bit before heading out into traffic. By noon I was a pro.
And I also recall carrying around a large map showing each hydrant, color coded green or yellow, according to pressure I guess. So I had three cans of paint with me, green and yellow for the tops, depending on what the map specified, and red for the bottoms.
And all summer long that’s what I did. Paint fire hydrants. That and listen to folks plead with me not to turn their water off when I pulled up in my water company truck.