The Decrepit, Unreliable Fire Hydrant Just Got a Brilliant Upgrade

These days, fires are rare enough that most of us rarely think about the state of our fire hydrants. But unfortunately, that also means we're ignoring a dangerously decayed piece of urban infrastructure. Except for a retired NYC firefighter and inventor named George Sigelakis, that is. Meet the fire hydrant of the future.

Sigelakis is the founder of Sigelock Systems, a fire hydrant company that makes "the world's first and only secure fire hydrant." According to Co.Exist, there are roughly 150 Sigelock hydrants operating across 11 states right now—and Sigelakis is looking to rapidly expand his design's reach. So, what precipitated this overhaul? Isn't the ubiquity of open hydrants on a hot summer day evidence that our system works just fine?

Actually, no. The state of our hydrants is pretty deplorable. Cities waste millions of dollars trying to repair them every year. Even worse, according to Sigelakis, it's common for firefighters to arrive on the scene and find that no hydrants even work. And even when there's no fire, it's way too easy to open hydrants up and waste thousands of gallons of water for fun. It's a dangerous, expensive, and wasteful problem that's been ignored for decades.

The Decrepit, Unreliable Fire Hydrant Just Got a Brilliant Upgrade

The Decrepit, Unreliable Fire Hydrant Just Got a Brilliant Upgrade

So, what does Sigelakis propose instead? He has designed a virtually tamper-proof hydrant that, according to him, should last two centuries without needing repair. Spartan, as it's called, is "the first significant new hydrant design in more than a century," the company says. Instead of easily-rusted cast iron, Spartan is made out of stainless steel and ductile iron, and it's faced with a lock that can only be opened using a special key made by Sigelock. To prevent leaking and frozen hydrants, Sigelakis reengineered the interior plumbing to make sure there's no room for standing water.

What's standing in the way of widespread adoption? Spartan is 20 percent more expensive than traditional hydrants. Although the added cost is nothing compared what cities spend maintaining the decaying system of hydrants they already have. [Co.Exist]