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Black fire hydrants in Texas signal low water volume area

The ink-colored structures indicate a low water volume area

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Photo/Hood County Fire Marshal’s Office

By Jessie Forand

BENTWATER, Texas — Firefighters responding to calls in Hood County, Texas, must pay special attention the fire hydrants they encounter.

Black hydrants, which might not draw attention to the untrained eye, alert firefighters that they are in a low water volume neighborhood and that hooking up to that hydrant might collapse the area’s infrastructure. Hood County News reported that, in those areas, tanker trucks serve as water supply.

In the past two decades, the county bought 2,000-gallon tanker trucks for each of its volunteer fire departments, which work together to provide a “water shuttle,” former Granbury Volunteer Fire Department Firefighter Rick Frye said.

Jeff Young, Hood County’s fire marshal, said 65-70% of the county does not have hydrants that can provide strong enough water flow to fight fires. However, the black hydrants can be used to refill tanker trucks, he said.

Before the coat of black paint, there were no regulations in place to warn responders, but that changed in 1999 with an update to the Texas Local Government Code.

“If a developer wanted to go in there and use really thin PVC pipe that won’t support water flow, which is what happened with a lot of them, there was nobody telling them back then that they couldn’t do it,” Young said.

Now, development mandates require information like housing density, public water systems, private wells, storage tanks and lake or pond access to be considered as they relate to firefighting; failure to comply can mean misdemeanor charges.