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Paint brightens hydrants around town for practical use
Green caps and top indicate a flowage of 1,000 to 1,499 gallons per minute. (Times photo: Marissa Weiher)
MONROE - Many fire hydrants throughout the city have received a new, and more noticeable, paint job. The red-bodied hydrants with caps of either blue, orange, red or green are meant to indicate how much water firefighters will get from the neighborhood fixtures if needed.

Monroe Fire Chief Daryl Rausch could not remember a time during his 15 years with the department that flow tests on city fire hydrants had been performed. The newest flow capacity tests started at the beginning of August and lasted for two weeks. Before those, the amount of flow a hydrant could provide was measured through a computational model.

"We felt that number was always fairly conservative," Rausch said. "The flows we observed (through tests) were better than expected."

The nationally accepted system had served its purpose, but approval from the Board of Public Works to update 150 hydrants annually over the next five years allowed for more accurate work. Fixtures updated this year were along 12th Street, the Green County Cheese Days parade route, the downtown Square, at the Wastewater Treatment Center, along West 17th Street, beside Lake Frances, and limited residential areas.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, the colors classify the amount of water per minute a hydrant can produce for its user.

The main stem of the hydrant has been painted red, but the tops and side caps are given a designated color to indicate its class. Red caps and top indicate a low flowage of 0 to 500 gallons per minute. Orange, Class B, will provide 500 to 999 gallons per minute. Green, or Class A, means the hydrant has a rated capacity of 1,000 to 1,499 gallons per minute, and light blue indicates a flowage of 1,500 gallons or higher per minute. Currently the city has no hydrants painted in light blue.

Rausch said the tests helped make Monroe a Class 2 rated city by Insurance Services Office, an advisory organization used by insurers that evaluates public fire protection and other municipal departments. Monroe moved up from Class 3 to the better Class 2 after the flow tests were conducted. Out of the 48,692 fire departments evaluated by ISO throughout the country, Monroe is one of only 1,164 rated at Class 2 and has been placed beside mostly career staff fire departments within the United States.

Monroe Utilities Supervisor Mike Kennison said more than 25 years had roughed up the paint on the fire hydrants around town, providing a reason for the city to hire professional painters to coat the hydrants in reflective, epoxy-type paint which should last up to 10 years.

"It was time to get them painted," Kennison said. "It just wasn't lasting anymore."

Kennison added that the majority of the 150 hydrants they painted in Monroe this year were either green or orange.

Rausch added that the tests coincided with the need for new paint to reflect the most accurate designation possible. He said though the hydrants have not been newly painted long, he knows the appearance will greatly help Monroe firefighters. The colors have the added benefit of saving time as well, Rausch said. With bright paint indicating how much water can be used, firefighters can identify the effectiveness of a hydrant even from a block away, and can search out another nearby fire hydrant with more flow capability if needed.