Know Your Fire Hydrants
Plugs on display at the fire hall
by Doug Warsinski
From the January, 2011 issue
Last fall, the sidewalk in front of Fire Station No. 1 on Fifth Ave. sprouted a row of seven fire hydrants. Though set in concrete instead of being hooked up to water mains, the exhibit is otherwise typical of the nearly 3,600 hydrants around the city. Sometimes referred to as "fire plugs," because their predecessors were actual plugs in seventeenth-century wooden water mains, hydrants are now made of cast iron--the basic design was patented in 1869, and Ann Arbor has a handful of nineteenth-century models still in service. Just three Michigan foundries provided most of the city's hydrants, and the display has examples from them all: Detroit's Michigan Valve, and the East Jordan and Traverse City iron works.
The fire department has a plug of its own to pass along: it asks home owners to shovel the snow around nearby hydrants, so firefighters can find them quickly in an emergency.
[Originally published in January, 2011.]