Can You Open a Fire Hydrant to Cool Off? (Is This Illegal?)

Can You Open a Fire Hydrant to Cool Off

Summer is here, and with the scorching heat comes the urge to cool off. Many people consider opening a fire hydrant as a way to beat the heat, but is this a legal and safe option?

It is illegal to open a fire hydrant without proper authorization. This can result in a fine or even jail time. In addition, opening a fire hydrant can also lead to decreased water pressure and decreased firefighting capabilities in the area.

However, this does not mean civilians can never open a hydrant. There are circumstances when it is permitted. In this article, we’ll discuss the laws around fire hydrants and how to secure a fire hydrant permit.

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Here’s a Quick Pro Tip!

Since using a fire hydrant to cool off is illegal and impractical, we’ve got a few other options for you. This is an easy and affordable way to keep cool this summer. Using these products is much more comfortable than paying a fine for tampering with a hydrant.

These are our favorite products from Amazon to cool off on hot summer days:

1. PoolTraditional way to cool off during hot summer days.

2. SprinklerIdeal for moving around and cooling off the whole family and pets!

3. Water blasterA perfect activity for kids to have fun and cool down simultaneously.

Fire Hydrants

Fire hydrants are iconic across the United States. They can be seen in every city or town, making a firefighter’s job much easier. Unfortunately, it can be very tempting for civilians to use a fire hydrant, so let’s discuss why that’s not a good idea.

Is It Legal to Open a Fire Hydrant?

It is illegal for civilians to open or use a fire hydrant without the appropriate permit. Many counties will issue a fine of up to $1000 as a penalty for tampering with a hydrant. It can be extremely dangerous to anyone nearby if a hydrant is opened illegally.

A fire hydrant releases as much as 1000 gallons of water when it is opened. This huge amount of pressure can knock grown adults off their feet. Any children nearby could be seriously injured as well. Do not attempt to open one without help.

Can I Use the Water From a Fire Hydrant?

You can use the water from a fire hydrant if your local water department has issued a permit. Along with the permit, you will be issued a hydrant meter that measures the water you use and adds it to your monthly water bill.

Using the water from a fire hydrant without an appropriate permit would lead to a fine or even possible jail time in some states. However, if you have a permit, you can use the hydrant to fill your pool or for irrigation.

Do People Actually Open Fire Hydrants?

Civilians are not allowed to simply open fire hydrants. However, firefighters can open a fire hydrant to access a lot of water quickly. They use a spray cap to reduce water flow from the hydrant.

If you have the proper legal permission, it’s quite easy to open a fire hydrant. However, this should only be done by professional firefighters with the appropriate tools. Some counties will send someone to open a fire hydrant and close it again if you need one. 

What Happens When You Turn on a Fire Hydrant?

Turning on a fire hydrant can release up to 1000 gallons of water per minute. That is a lot of water and a huge amount of pressure. Most fire hydrants in an area are connected, so using one depletes the water pressure of all the other hydrants.

The water pressure that spews out of the hydrant can also be dangerous to any adults or children nearby. It’s enough to knock a grown adult off their feet or send a child to the hospital. Therefore, you should never attempt to open a hydrant without the proper knowledge and legal permission.

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Is It Safe to Play in Fire Hydrant Water?

It’s not safe to play in fire hydrant water. A hydrant can release up to 1000 gallons of water per minute. Not only is that a lot of water being wasted, but it’s also a lot of water pressure. Anyone standing too close could get knocked off their feet.

Children can also get serious injuries if they are too close to an illegally opened fire hydrant. In the summertime, New York firefighters are known to open fire hydrants around the city to help people cool off since there are a limited number of swimming pools available in the overcrowded city. 

The city puts spray caps on each open fire hydrant. A spray cap significantly reduces the amount of water sprayed out of the fire hydrant. As a result, the hydrant only sprays 25 gallons of water per minute, much less than 1000 gallons per minute.

Using Fire Hydrant Water

The municipality owns fire hydrants, but if you tamper with or steal water from a fire hydrant, you are expected to pay for the water. Stealing water from a hydrant is frowned upon for a few reasons. Let’s discuss why.

Can I Use Water From a Fire Hydrant?

It’s illegal to open a fire hydrant for your use. However, if you require a lot of water for irrigation or to fill up a pool, you can request a permit from your local water department. If you’re issued a permit, you can use water from a fire hydrant.

You would also be issued a water meter to measure the amount of water you use. You need to pay for the water that you use from a fire hydrant. Fire hydrants are there to help firefighters do their job, not for any other recreational or personal uses. 

If you want to use the water from a fire hydrant to cool off, we would recommend investing in a pool or sprinklers that can be used by your family over the years. If you need the water for other reasons, you should go through the appropriate channels to get permission.

Can I Use Water From a Hydrant?

You cannot use water from a hydrant without the explicit permission of your local water department. You would need to apply for a permit, stating a reason and evidence for why you need to use water from a hydrant.

It’s up to city officials to issue a permit or not. If you are issued a permit, you can legally use the water from a fire hydrant. If you attempt to use it without a permit, you would be charged a fine of up to $1000.

Can I Take Water From a Fire Hydrant?

You are not allowed to take water from a fire hydrant for your own personal use. However, if you have a permit from your local water department, you could use the water. Although, you should not rely on a fire hydrant if you need water immediately.

A fire hydrant is there to allow firefighters to do their job more effectively. Using one hydrant lowers the pressure of all the other hydrants on the line. If you see a hose attached to a hydrant with no water meter, it’s most probably someone using it illegally, and you should report it.

Can I Use a Fire Hydrant to Fill My Pool?

If you have the approval of your local water department and help from the local fire department, you can use a fire hydrant to fill up your pool. A fire hydrant releases up to 1000 gallons of water every minute, so it will only take a few minutes to fill your pool.

Using a fire hydrant to fill your pool without the proper approval is illegal, and you could get a hefty fine or even jail time. We would recommend going through the appropriate departments to get approval.

Can Anyone Use a Water Hydrant?

No one is allowed to simply open a hydrant and use the water for personal use. You could get into some legal trouble if you try this, so rather refrain from opening a hydrant.

You could request a permit from your local water department if you have a valid reason to use a hydrant. If you have a permit, a firefighter will be dispatched to assist you with opening and closing a hydrant.

Opening a Fire Hydrant

If you have the necessary permits and appropriate permission, you’re probably wondering how to open a fire hydrant. In this section, we’ll break it down for you. Although, if you’re still unsure, it’s best to ask your fire department for help.

Why Do People Open Hydrants?

Some people open fire hydrants to cool down or for recreational use. However, this is illegal and actually puts a lot of people in danger. Fire hydrants should only be opened by authorities to flush the water system or by firefighters to do their job.

Even though it is a convenient system, it’s not there to serve as a water source for civilians. Water circulates through the system to be readily available for firefighters when they need a large amount of water.

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How to Open a Fire Hydrant?

To open a fire hydrant, you need a hydrant wrench. There are three caps on a hydrant. You need to loosen two of them to allow the water pressure to build up. Some hydrants have a ‘spinning top,’ which can only be unlocked by authorized personnel.

A firefighter would use a hydrant wrench to remove the five-inch cap and one of the two and half-inch caps and ensure the remaining cap is tight. Then they would attach the wrench to the stem nut and turn it counterclockwise to open the hydrant and allow water to flow.

The fire department would fasten a spray cap or a hose over the five-inch cap to ensure water is not wasted. It’s important to note that you should not attempt to open a fire hydrant without the appropriate approval and personnel to help you.

How Do You Pop a Hydrant?

After securing the appropriate permit and authorization from your water department, you can request the assistance of a local firefighter to open a fire hydrant. Usually, they are locked with a special tool that only a firefighter or authorized personnel has.

Use a hydrant wrench to unscrew two caps off the hydrant. Use the wrench or a special tool to open the water source and allow the water to flow out depending on where you are. Be sure that no one is in front of the water flow as it could cause injuries.

Can You Open a Fire Hydrant?

It’s completely illegal for the general public to open a fire hydrant. If you need to use a hydrant, you would need to request a permit at your local water department with an appropriate reason and evidence.

You should not attempt to open a fire hydrant illegally. Not only could you damage the hydrant, but you could also cause serious injuries to anyone standing nearby. Therefore, you will be charged a fine of up to $1000 for tampering with a fire hydrant.

Rather than tampering with a hydrant and finding yourself a suspect of a crime, find other ways to cool yourself and your family off during summer. Something simple like a portable misting fan or a trampoline sprinkler for the kids.

Why Do Cities Open Fire Hydrants?

Some cities, like New York, have a tradition of opening a few fire hydrants in the summertime to allow the public to cool off. However, this is regulated by city officials and is not extremely common across the rest of the country.

Authorized officials from the water department regularly use fire hydrants to flush the water system. This is meant to remove any mineral (or hard water) build-up from the pipes and allow the water to circulate adequately.

Water Worries

Now that you understand the legal issues about using fire hydrants illegally, let’s answer some other common questions. You might be surprised to learn that fire hydrants don’t always act like in the movies.

How Do You Turn off Fire Hydrants?

Place a hydrant wrench on the top nut and slowly start to turn it clockwise. You should do this slowly to prevent a water hammer (which could blow the whole water main). When the hydrant is closed, the water pressure should hold the valve shut.

Allow the hydrant to drain before replacing the nozzle cap. Also, apply some grease to the nozzle cap before replacing it. If the hydrant does not shut off, don’t tamper with it. Rather contact your local fire department to come and assist.

Do Fire Hydrants Spray Water When Hit?

In most cases, fire hydrants will not spray water when hit by a car like in the movies. Most hydrants are designed to break away when hit by a car. It automatically blocks the water supply, so the hydrant should release no water.

However, only newer hydrants are designed to cut off from the supply. Therefore, older hydrants might not be as effective. You might still see some water gushing when an older hydrant is hit by a vehicle.

What Happens if You Break a Fire Hydrant?

If you break a fire hydrant by accident, you would still be held financially responsible in most states, even in the case of a car accident. However, if you are found responsible for theft or tampering with a hydrant, the fine would be much higher. 

So if you break a hydrant, by accident or not, you can expect to pay up to $6000, excluding labor costs. However, every situation is different and might cost you something different. Therefore, it’s best to avoid a hydrant as much as possible.

Who’s Allowed to Open a Fire Hydrant?

Qualified firefighters or authorized water department officials are permitted to open a fire hydrant. The general public is never allowed to open a fire hydrant without a permit or authorization from the water department.

If you try to use a hydrant without the appropriate permission, you could get in some legal trouble. You’ll probably get a hefty fine and maybe even some jail time. Fortunately, you can apply for a permit at your local water department.

Related Questions

What Does It Mean if a Fire Hydrant Is Red?

If a fire hydrant is red, it indicates the water-flow capacity. A red fire hydrant has a water pressure of fewer than 500 gallons per minute. These are the lowest pressure hydrants but also the most iconic.

There are other colors of fire hydrants as well, and each color indicates the water pressure available. 

  • Orange hydrants have a flow capacity of 500 – 999 gallons per minute. 
  • Green hydrants have a flow capacity of 1000 – 1499 gallons per minute.  
  • Blue hydrants have a flow capacity of 1500 or more gallons per minute.

Why Do Fire Hydrants Not Freeze in Winter?

When the hydrant is closed, it is not filled with water. Instead, the water flows back into the water supply system, where it does not freeze. So a fire hydrant won’t freeze in the winter as there is no water inside.

This is known as a dry-barrel fire hydrant, and it can be found across most northern states in the US. The drain valve automatically opens when the hydrant is shut, allowing the water to drain into the water system.

Who Owns Fire Hydrants?

Fire hydrants are usually owned and maintained by the local water department. Therefore, even if a hydrant is located on your property, it is still technically the property of your local water department.

Firefighters or city officials will come by at least once a year to test a fire hydrant and make sure everything is still working. If a hydrant is privately owned, the owner is responsible for ensuring the hydrant is inspected.

Final Thoughts

It is illegal to open a fire hydrant simply to cool off. Even though there are cities like New York where this practice has been standard for years, it is always regulated by city officials. To use water from a hydrant, you must request a permit from your local water department.

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