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Fire Hydrants Get a Face Lift

A new design for fire hydrants could make fighting fires a lot easier

(Sigelock)
smithsonian.com

Who better to design a fire hydrant than a firefighter? George Sigelakis, a former firefighter in New York City came up with a new design for a fire hydrant that would be easy to use, reliable and capable of withstanding whatever humans or nature could throw at it.

From Fast Company

Tales of malfunctioning hydrants are frighteningly common. In January, a blaze on Long Island raged out of control while firefighters searched for a hydrant that wasn't frozen. A girl died in a Detroit fire when a working hydrant was nowhere to be found. A report from Atlanta this month found many of the city's hydrants are dry. “People live under a false sense of security,” Sigelakis says. “People don’t realize they need it until they need it, and when they need it, it doesn’t work.”

The Sigelock model is made of steel, ductile iron, and a special rust resistant coating, designed to withstand the elements better than it's predecessors. It also requires a special tool to open, combatting local neighbors who might want to open the hydrant to cool off on a hot day. One of his first tests at hydrants, in 2012, withstood the wrath of Sandy with barely a scratch.

Though Sigelakis’ design is certainly innovative, there are plenty of other hydrant designs out there, mostly variations on a very simple theme (connected to a water source on one end, with a place to attach hoses at the other). Some fire hydrants are located entirely below the ground—to access in the event of a fire, firefighters remove the cover and attach a pipe and hoses to the hydrant.

Luckily, no matter the design, they all have the same function: providing water to put out fires. Of course, if you’re not interested in their functionality, but still love fire hydrants, you might want to take a look at Busted Plug Plaza in Columbia, South Carolina—the fire hydrant sculpture there is 40 feet tall. 

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