Firefighter invents tool to conquer snowed-in hydrants

On average, it takes 20 minutes to dig and move to the next hydrant; the Hydrant Snorkel eliminates this problem


Every year, three million fire hydrants are buried in more than 72 inches of snow.

These delays in accessing water supplies eat up precious time in saving someone's life or property.

Lt. John Creel, creator of the Hydrant Snorkel and a retired 23-year veteran with the Hoodland (Ore.) Fire Department, found a way to establish water flow from hydrants deep under snow.

Lt. John Creel (left) and Scott Freeman (right) stand next to an installed Hydrant Snorkel. (Photo courtesy Hydrant Snorkel, LLC.)
Lt. John Creel (left) and Scott Freeman (right) stand next to an installed Hydrant Snorkel. (Photo courtesy Hydrant Snorkel, LLC.)

"The real future of the hydrant will come more into play as community’s demand a smaller carbon footprint," Lt. John Creel said. "With the snorkel, there's no manpower or machinery needed to dig out hydrants to access water supply to save homes people live in."

We caught up with Lt. Creel and his partner, Scott Freeman, a retired 11-year firefighter with the same fire department who heads up the sales and marketing department, to learn more about the product.

What is the Hydrant Snorkel?
The Hydrant Snorkel gives the ability to any firefighter to access hydrant water at any depth of snow and ice. The progressive, port and key is the only system in existence that allows water access as the depth of snow changes during the winter months.

How does it work?
Simply stated, the Hydrant Snorkel is a riser pipe attached to any dry fire hydrant port. Once attached, the riser pipe takes a soft 90-degree angle up, commonly to a distance of 9 feet above ground. Along the length of the pipe, there are multiple ports that can be accessed by a firefighter, and a supply hose can be attached at whatever height works best for the snow depth.

The riser pipe can go as high as needed. So far, we have gone 17 feet in height. The hydrant also has an extension that travels up alongside the same path as the riser pipe.

How does the water drain out?
The nut extension gives the ability to turn the hydrant water on and off at any time in any snow depth. When the water is no longer needed, the water in the rise is drained back into the fire hydrant. It doesn't freeze or break because it drains after use, same as a dry hydrant.

What is it made of?
The Hydrant Snorkel is made of aluminum. The materials used are non-corrosive and manufactured to match the technology of fire engines of today and beyond. The same technology used in $500,000 engines is the same used in manufacturing the Hydrant Snorkel.

How much does it cost?
We have six different designs having to do with the size of rise pipe demotions and lengths. The most popular is the 4 ½ inch outside diameter rise pipe that is 8 feet long with 2 ½ inch supply ports. Regular retail is $1,950.

The least expensive reaches 8 feet and has a 2 ½ inch side port attachment. This retails for $1,500. We also give a first-time buyer discount of 10 percent and military discounts.

What was the impetus for the invention?
When a fire engine arrives at a fire, people want to see water flying. They don’t want to see firefighters searching or digging in the snow to locate water supply.

How did your firefighting background motivate you to create the Hydrant Snorkel?
My motivation as a firefighter is to save lives, protect property and enhance the quality of life within a community. The Hydrant Snorkel allows firefighters to do just that.

Why is this product important for first responders?
With our product, first responders can establish a true fire water flow. As a result, the officer in charge can make the full array of decisions such as life safety, search for victims, offensive attack or exposure control and ventilation. Also, there will be no need to conserve water until the water tenders arrive. The officer now has as much latitude in the summer as in the winter.

How does your product change the way crews respond to fires?
Instead of responding with three in an engine, the engine will have six or the fire department can send two fully staffed engines to the fire. This works in the total districts favor. The ISO rating is split into three parts: manpower, water supply and record keeping. If a district has low ratings on manpower or water supply, the problem is eliminated with the simple use of the Hydrant Snorkel.

What has been the response from first responders?
We've gotten a resound "thank you!" from all of our customers. They continually come back and tell us how simple the Hydrant Snorkel is. A citizen walked by while we were drilling on the Hydrant Snorkel in the summer and said, "I know what that is … that's one of those snow hydrants."

Anything new in development?
We have had many requests for the same type of product to fit onto stand pipes, and we are working with customers to accommodate them in this application.

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