Hearing What the City’s Fire Hydrants Tell Us

“The older plain one is my favorite.”

Ryan Gabriel, a manager at the SFPUC’s City Distribution Division, reminisced about the different hydrants that have emerged throughout the City over the years.

“We do our best to take great care of the hydrants. The hydrants tell us stories about the history of San Francisco and what’s going on with our water system,” said Gabriel. “To hear some of that story, we are currently conducting pilot program to collect attribute and preventative maintenance data electronically on fire hydrants in the City.”

The SFPUC currently manages approximately 9,880 hydrants, which include low and high pressure fire hydrants. Fire hydrant styles have ranged from colorful to plain to gold – and each have their own purpose. Throughout his time at the SFPUC, Gabriel has seen various styles of hydrants.

In a public-private partnership, the SFPUC and Wachs Water Services are conducting a pilot project to assess, test and collect information on approximately 900 fire hydrants throughout San Francisco. The pilot program, which started May 6, will evaluate and improve the operability of the hydrants, document, integrate and analyze locations as well as record operational and physical data. 

Crews connect a hose to pressure test a fire hydrant, checking for leaks and maintaining pressure.

The work begins with crews inspecting the physical condition of each hydrant, performing a pressure and flow test, and performing minor repairs if necessary. Water valves that control the supply to the hydrants also are inspected and their functionality verified.

The outcome of this pilot program will help shape how the SFPUC performs maintenance work in the future.

Crews operate a fire hydrant to ensure it is functioning as part of the inspection.
Crews flush the fire hydrant to relieve the pressure.