Interesting Post-War Application of an Important Wartime Device

AN interesting example of the employment of a war-time invention which played an important part in World War II and received considerable publicity, the mine detector, has come to light in Britain.

Through a correspondent connected with the British Fire Service, FIRE ENGINEERING is informed that mine detectors have been used with considerable success in locating flush fire hydrants that for various reasons have become “lost.”

Possible application of this same product, and principle, to locating hydrants in American municipalities is limited to the few cities which employ the same type of flush hydrants generally used in the British Isles; or to finding concealed manhole or water hole covers. Nevertheless the peacetime use of this wartime product is worth describing for the record.

In England, flush-type hydrants are frequently located in roadways or grass borders where it is not uncommon for them to become covered over during tar spraying operations, while those situated on grass borders in more rural districts tend to become overgrown with verdure. To further complicate the problem, identification or indicator plates or signs, are not always present.

Under these conditions it is not unusual for the fire brigade to be seriously handicapped in its inability to quickly locate a “lost” hydrant.

The problem of locating these hidden sources of water for fire operations was raised prominently in a recent drive by the Leicester (Eng.) City Brigade to overhaul the hydrant system both in the city and in surrounding districts which it is understood are protected by the city’s fire forces. So much time was being expended in locating lost hydrants that the use of mine detectors was considered by Chief Officer E. McKinnell, O.B.E., M I. Fire E., who is the 1947-48 president of the Institute of Fire Engineers of Great Britain.

The use of mine detectors proved so successful that fourteen “missing” hydrants were found within four days. As a result, the mine detector is now a permanent piece of the Leicester Brigade’s equipment.

In one instance, where a hydrant had not been found after a two-and-a-half hours’ search, the detector resulted in its discovery in ten minutes. In another case, the hydrant had been removed but the indicator plate (see photo below right) had been left. The detector quickly determined that the plate was superfluous.

Editors of FIRE ENGINEERING have had reports of difficulty experienced by American firemen in locating not only flush hydrants but more particularly in finding identifying plates or covers for wells or other below-surface sources of water for fire fighting. These street level or adjacent covers are usually metal, and their location is indicated by a sign or post, or both. It has happened that both the flush covers, and the identifying marks have been covered by snow, making difficult the task of locating the opening to the supply.

“The editors are indebted to Mr. E. McKinnell, Chief Officer, Leicester Fire Department, Leicester, Eng., and to the editors of Fire Protection and Accident Protection Review, Benn Brothers, Ltd., London, Enf., for the material upon which this text is based.

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