Fire hydrants are one of those technologies that remain useful, even if there has been no real change in the basic design in more than a century.
Prior to the invention of fire hydrants, fires were fought by bucket brigades or horse drawn equipment that could pump water from a nearby open water source, if there was one. A bucket brigade is a line of people stretching from the water source to the fire, passing full buckets of water along to the fire, where the bucket of water was tossed at the fire, and the empties passed along back to the water source.
With the development of iron pipes in the early 1800s, pressurized water systems became possible and with that, hydrants. They were first invented by Frederick Graff in 1801, in Philadelphia.
There are two main types of fire hydrants, wet barrel and dry barrel. Wet barrel hydrants are fully charged and ready for hoses to be attached. Dry barrel hydrants have their main valves underground, below the frost line in places with freezing winters.
The main technology was developed by the 1870s and hasn’t changed much since. Hydrants are a main tool for fighting fires, but they require skill. The water is under high pressure, enough pressure to cause serious injury. The hoses become heavy and difficult to aim. This elderly technology remains effective at protecting homes from fire.
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