We have approximately 40,000 fire hydrants. They are located in public footways or highways and it is our responsibility to ensure that these hydrants are kept operable and available for use in the event of fire. We work closely with six different water companies and other private providers who install and maintain hydrants.
It is not always possible for our fire appliances to carry all the water they need to put out a large fire. To supply us with additional water we rely on a network of fire hydrants to provide a water supply in the vicinity of a fire.
Contrary to popular belief, fire hydrants are not above the ground as seen in American films, but are underground. Their presence is indicated by a yellow marker plate which identifies the location of the hydrant and the size of the water main. The hydrant itself is in a chamber under the surface of the road or path covered by a lid usually marked with the letters “FH”, although some lids may have other markings. We also use yellow paint to help identify a fire hydrant cover if it is difficult to locate.
Obstruction of fire hydrants, particularly inconsiderate parking, could place the lives of you, your family and your neighbours at risk. It is an offence to damage or obstruct a fire hydrant and is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding £500 (Fire and Rescue Services Act Section 42).
We use our fulltime firefighters and also have three hydrant technicians who endeavour to inspect all the fire hydrants within a time frame of 12 to 36 months. The technicians are trained and equipped to work safely on the highway and can carry out some repairs instead of them being sent to the water company. We conduct an above ground and below ground inspection.
It is also illegal to use a fire hydrant to obtain water for purposes other than firefighting, unless authorised by the water undertaker or other person to whom the hydrant belongs. Unauthorised access to the hydrant pit is not allowed. Persons found to be using fire hydrants without the appropriate authorisation are liable to prosecution.
Water undertakers can licence the use of their hydrants to third-parties such as street cleaners. However, if you suspect a fire hydrant is being used illegally without permission you can report it to us. The more information you can provide about the user such as location, date, time, company name, vehicle license plate number the easier it is for us to investigate.
Private fire hydrants are located on private water mains that are not the responsibility of the local water undertaker or fire and rescue service. These are generally located on large sites such as hospitals, military establishments, and industrial estates, but may also be installed to provide cover for specific risks. Private hydrants are the responsibility of the owners or occupiers on whose land they are installed and cannot be inspected.
Private hydrants should be installed in accordance with the appropriate British standards and should be compatible with fire and rescue service equipment. Where private hydrants are installed they should be tested and maintained and be in good working order by the responsible person, HIWFRS should then be informed so that the information is available to our crews if required at an incident.
Hydrant marker posts or plates help firefighters quickly identify the location of fire hydrants. Sadly, these occasionally get vandalised or damaged and, when missing or obscured can waste valuable minutes in locating a hydrant, which can potentially cost lives or increase the amount of damage in a fire. We encourage the public to report problems or enquiries about fire hydrants. Reports of any damaged or leaking fire hydrants or related equipment are inspected and repaired as soon as possible.
You can report damaged or defective fire hydrants to us quickly and easily online.