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What do the different-colored fire hydrants in Wilmington and Wrightsville Beach mean?

Judy Royal

All those colors aren’t for decorative purposes. They’re actually code for firefighters so they know certain things about the water sources.

The system is fairly simple in Wrightsville Beach, according to Fire Chief Frank Smith. The fire hydrant colors denote the size of the water main that the hydrants are attached to, which determines the volume of water that is available from the hydrant. The larger the water main, the greater the flow rate that is available from the hydrant. Orange = 6-inch main; green = 8-inch main; and blue = 10- or 12-main.

It’s a little more complicated in Wilmington. The following information comes from Assistant Chief Frank Blackley of the Wilmington Fire Department:

The barrel of the hydrant is painted either red or silver to designate if the 2.5-inch threads are national standard or Wilmington threads. Threads are the point where a hose attaches to the hydrant. The City of Wilmington began using its own thread many years ago. When private water systems outside the city began installing hydrants in the 1970s, they elected to use national standard hydrants. Red barrel hydrants are national standard, while silver designates Wilmington thread. Most departments now use adapters that make the thread size less of an issue.

Another aspect of the coloring system is the top of the hydrant, or bonnet. In the city, the color designates the size of the water main.  A yellow bonnet is an 8-inch or less water main while green is 10 inches or larger. This system is changing as the city is moving to a coloring system that informs the firefighters the amount of flow available from the hydrant. It will follow this code: red = less than 500 gallons per minute; orange = 500-999 GPM; green = 1000- 1499 GPM; blue = greater than 1,500 GPM.

The city is working with New Hanover County Fire Services to coordinate its coloring system and is also working on a project to GPS all hydrants in the city and county to create a map showing firefighters the closest hydrant as well as those that need repair.

User-contributed question by:
Tiffany Rice

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