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"US fire hydrants question" Topic

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Darrell B D Day14 Feb 2023 9:54 a.m. PST

Are US fire hydrants painted/finished in a specific colour or are they just a general metallicy sort of of finish? If they are coloured, is it a uniform one nationwide, statewide, citywide or none of the above?

I'm thinking prohibition era rather than now.



Choctaw14 Feb 2023 10:13 a.m. PST

In my experience most of the fire hydrants in my neck of the woods (Texas) are painted red. I'm not sure about the uniformity though.

Personal logo Virtualscratchbuilder Supporting Member of TMP Fezian14 Feb 2023 10:39 a.m. PST

They are silver with blue accents here in N. Texas not Dallas town.

5thlancer14 Feb 2023 10:55 a.m. PST

Here in Massachusetts they are generally a mustardy yellow color, There are also some that are red. I seem to remember that the color is an indicator of the amount of water pressure from that hydrant.

DisasterWargamer Supporting Member of TMP14 Feb 2023 11:00 a.m. PST

Currently the color of Hydrants can vary by jurisdiction – Standards have colors set to indicate things like the amount of flow per minute or other facts about the water source.

Historically a few things I ran across

A painting from 1930 – shows a dark green hydrant with a dark silver or aluminum top link

A second one from 1938 shows a aluminum or silver colored one

My conclusion is either pick a city and research that one for what color they were or paint to what you find interesting or feels right


Andrew Walters14 Feb 2023 11:01 a.m. PST

Cool, you don't see much of this outside the Napoleonics board.

It's entirely local, there is no national standard. Most are red, but many, many are white. I think that's newer, though. I would bet that in the 1930s they were nearly all red.

In any case, they're going to look best in red, your table probably needs more red, no one is going to question them being red. So make them red.

Most importantly, no one is going to fail to recognized them if they're red. It would be kind of a bummer to do a bunch of research and discover that in Lubbock, TX in the latter half of 1935 they were grey, so you paint yours grey, and then have people ask you, "What's that grey thing supposed to be?" It is possible to be too smart.

Andrew Walters14 Feb 2023 11:02 a.m. PST

FWIW the one in my yard is white, but I'm pretty sure this was all farmland during prohibition. At least I haven't found any secret compartments yet…

jefritrout14 Feb 2023 11:14 a.m. PST

There is no uniformity as I've seen numerous colors (red, yellow, green, gray) in different cities. Some cities even have art contests painting fire hydrants various ways.

However currently Chicago has red ones as does my city, but the one that I can see outside my office is a very faded red (almost pink).

Stryderg14 Feb 2023 11:37 a.m. PST

Ours are mostly yellow or red. Sometimes, for special occasions, they are decorated: painted like soldiers, one is painted like Lowes employee (it's in the Lowes parking lot), painted like farmers, etc.

Personal logo ColCampbell Supporting Member of TMP14 Feb 2023 11:38 a.m. PST

Back in the 1990s when one of my Boy Scouts was working on his Eagle project, he was told to paint all the hydrants in his neighborhood white.

But as others have said, color depends on the municipality and department. Whatever the color, they need to be very visible from a distance so the fire crews can spot them quickly.


Arjuna14 Feb 2023 11:47 a.m. PST

Cataloging US fire hydrants seems to be a worthwhile and honorable pastime.
There must be some historical society that is engaged in it.

The different colors of the tops and nozzles corresponds to different water-flow capacities.
And the main color indicates the origin of the water.
But of course, not all areas follow the general rules.

79thPA Supporting Member of TMP14 Feb 2023 12:11 p.m. PST

Generally yellow or red where I am at.

doc mcb14 Feb 2023 12:37 p.m. PST

Chattanooga area is served by Tennessee-American Water Company and they have their own color of yellow and blue. State of Tennessee water is a different color, not sure what.

So LOTS of variety across the nation, but I think all would be uniform in a given jurisdiction.

Personal logo enfant perdus Supporting Member of TMP14 Feb 2023 12:42 p.m. PST

My city has them in yellow (the barrel) with green facings (the bonnet and caps)

Personal logo Parzival Supporting Member of TMP14 Feb 2023 2:10 p.m. PST

In 1976 it became a thing in many American cities to repaint fire hydrants in red, white, and blue, and even paint them as human characters like Uncle Sam.


It's still done in a lot of places, though the designs have become more fanciful and even based on pop-culture as cartoon figures, Dalmatians, and more.

Darrell B D Day14 Feb 2023 2:11 p.m. PST

Thanks for the insights. Someone mentioned that this sort of topic is more customarily found on the the Napoleonics board and when you get into it, it does have that lovely button/rivet counting aspect to it that we wargamers cherish. It is strangely fascinating to read of the differences from place to place and somehow reassuring.

Now I know that there are such wide differences, I'll narrow it down. I'm planning on a classic gangland, Prohibition-era setting so to me, as a Brit, that means Chicago or maybe New York. I think red sounds most sensible and that has been mentioned above as being current in `Chicago so I'm thinking that may be my choice.

Thanks again for the input – it's been unexpectedly interesting.


T Corret Supporting Member of TMP14 Feb 2023 2:43 p.m. PST

Several S.C. townes painted them like toy soldiers in the 1970's.

rustymusket14 Feb 2023 2:57 p.m. PST

St. Louis, Missouri used to have black hydrants. Now they vary.

jefritrout14 Feb 2023 4:34 p.m. PST

I looked when I was driving today.
Downtown is red.
West side is white with green bonnets.
Didn't head east so I don't know.

DisasterWargamer Supporting Member of TMP14 Feb 2023 4:48 p.m. PST

A few historic images

New York




BrianW14 Feb 2023 5:08 p.m. PST

I did some research on a related subject for my 1920's mobsters; mailbox colors. You would think that letterboxes have always been blue. In the 1920's though, they were olive drab. Allegedly this is due to all the leftover paint from WWI.

My thought is all red for fire hydrants, or maybe red with silver trim. It's what we "expect" them to look like. Besides, you shouldn't concern yourself with anyone who criticizes your game over something that piddling!

EDIT: Hard to get a much better primary source than an Edward Hopper painting like DisasterWargamer showed. Olive drab and silver would definitely be a second choice.

Personal logo miniMo Supporting Member of TMP14 Feb 2023 6:15 p.m. PST

I don't expect them to look red.
~ , ~

Really depends on your time period and locale.

In recent years, more and more have been getting the bodies painted chrome yellow. That's the national standard; well more like guidelines — it's not law and local regulations don't need to be changed.

Boston does black bodies and tops color coded for water pressure.

NYC has largely been black bodies (easy to maintain) with chrome silver tops (visibilty), but the privately owned former Jamaica Water Supply Company system ones were yellow. They were the last private company, taken over by the city in 1996; there were others stretching back before then.

I don't think colour coding for pressure is Prohibition era.

City owned ones in Chicago are red. That might have been the regulation all along. They also have their own design:

Mail boxes have gone through a variety of colours over the years. Blue with red tops from 1955–1970, the blue ones and the 'new' eagle logo came in 71.

USPS Jeeps used to be blue with white tops. The all white livery started in '76, but older vehicles weren't repainted. For my Mean Streets games of The Warriors set in 1979 NYC, I have a mix of both types. And hydrants will be black and silver when I add them.

HMS Exeter14 Feb 2023 6:27 p.m. PST

In Baltimore they're pretty much all orange.

Arjuna14 Feb 2023 7:41 p.m. PST

I'm not US American, so it's not really my business, but since there's clearly so much interest in the topic, I'm suggesting a separate sub-board for it under Wargaming in the USA.
Really tempting.
I envy you.

JAFD2614 Feb 2023 8:25 p.m. PST

Philadelphia had some that were (old) red (now) silver, water from the city (treated, drinkable) water system, other dark-green hydrants for water pumped directly from the rivers (untreated, don't drink)

Personal logo McKinstry Supporting Member of TMP Fezian14 Feb 2023 10:22 p.m. PST

We have a (singular) hydrant in our 249 square mile rural fire district. It is yellow.

Arjuna14 Feb 2023 11:37 p.m. PST

So, what rule set would be appropriate?
I clearly see the potential for some colorful HOTT armies.

And others consisting of fire tons as adversaries.

28mm for skirmish and 15mm or 6mm for mass battles?

emckinney15 Feb 2023 12:56 a.m. PST

School bus yellow here.

I would have been very confused by a board with them in red.

Wondering about their color in movies from the dawn of color until the 1970s (that's when you started to get more on-location shooting and then productions gradually moving out of Hollywood) …

stephen m15 Feb 2023 5:02 a.m. PST

I have seen them painted as a Ukrainian flag lately, blue over yellow.

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP15 Feb 2023 8:43 a.m. PST

Yellow in Fort Wayne, IN--and probably a lot of the Midwest, or I'd have noticed.

emckinney, I took a quick look through reference books on the New York section of the old MGM lot, Paramount, 20th Century Warner and the "40 Acre" lot. I don't think the old lots had fire hydrants in the normal course of events: they were added for color or when the script needed them, like scatter terrain. Good luck finding a movie set in a city and shot in color on a studio back lot. I won't say it's impossible, but…

BrianW15 Feb 2023 9:31 p.m. PST

Well, that's why I put "expect" in quotes. Clearly, YMMV based on location in the US.

That being said, the website you linked to is fascinating! A rabbit hole that is much easier to fall into than I first thought. 😁
EDIT: Your Mean Streets 1979 Warriors variant sounds very interesting.

Oberlindes Sol LIC Supporting Member of TMP16 Feb 2023 12:54 a.m. PST

I agree with Andrew Walters:

In any case, they're going to look best in red, your table probably needs more red, no one is going to question them being red. So make them red.

Personal logo miniMo Supporting Member of TMP16 Feb 2023 9:31 a.m. PST

That being said, the website you linked to is fascinating! A rabbit hole that is much easier to fall into than I first thought. 😁
EDIT: Your Mean Streets 1979 Warriors variant sounds very interesting.

Doing the modelling for Mean Streets is what led me into rabbit holes of USPS vehicles & mail boxes as I couldn't remember off-hand exactly when they changed. And then fire hydrants…

My game setting isn't really a variant, Mean Streets is very openly inspired by The Warriors. I'm just approaching it much more specifically than others — I love modelling real life as seen in the movies! I have some buildings, many 1/64 1970s cars, and many STL files from Corvus Games Terrain on hand. Holding back on printing them out til I have cleared sufficient storage space for them. Figure conversiona and painting are proceeding. Build thread over on LAF where it is much easier to upload photos.


Shagnasty Supporting Member of TMP16 Feb 2023 5:44 p.m. PST

Great concept miniMo. I love that movies.

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