How Do You Thaw A Frozen Fire Hydrant?

How Do You Thaw A Frozen Fire Hydrant? A Century Old Method.

Winter has arrived and dealing with sub-zero temperatures now becomes a reality. From a utilities standpoint, these low temps are always a cause for concern when it comes to frozen water lines. For a water utility or fire service, the concern stretches even further to frozen fire hydrants. If a hydrant does inevitably freeze up, it’s important to thaw it out as soon as possible so the inoperable hydrant is no longer considered a public safety issue. So what is the safest and most efficient way to thaw a frozen hydrant? The answer is steam.

Circa 1918, Martin V. Farrell and Harry L. Maier of Wilmington Delaware formed a patent on the most widely used and effective way to thaw a frozen fire hydrant today. Although the ways of drawing the steam have changed, the concept and method have not. This is to “employ a structure whereby the steam is brought directly into contact with the part to be thawed out, so as to accomplish the result quickly and effectively.” (Google Patents, n.d.)

Performing the Service

Whether you’re dealing with a frozen hydrant or frozen pipes, the remedy remains the same. With your steam device at hand, follow the next few steps to resolve the problem.

  1. Once the steam starts coming out of your thawing system, you place the hose directly into the frozen hydrant or pipe and probe around in the affected area until you run into the ice.
  2. Once you find the area, monitor steam and how it progresses through the melting ice. 
  3. As it melts, you can jig the steam hose to help break up the area and increase the rate at which the ice melts. 
  4. Continue this progression until you are able to clear the ice entirely.

To demonstrate using a Bunsen-burner style steamer box to create steam, This video created by ACME Tools is a great example. (ACME Tools, 2015)

Hydrant Maintenance

To avoid a freezing event with fire hydrants, be sure to perform regular maintenance on your hydrants and test them often. If you’re looking for hydrant maintenance services,  our friends at E.J. Prescott offer best in class hydrant maintenance services to keep your utilities running 24/7. As the old adage says, an ounce of maintenance is worth a pound of cure.


Now that you have a better idea about how to resolve and prevent frozen hydrants, the most important thing to remember is that safety is always number one. Working with hydrants and especially thawing them can be dangerous work without taking the right precautions. Call in the professionals when they’re needed and don’t hesitate to spend what it takes to get ahead of any future issues. Inoperable hydrants are a safety hazard and a financial burden.

Works Cited

“US1294888A – Means for Thawing Frosted Fire-Hydrants, Water-Mains, and the like.” Google Patents, Google, 

AcmeToolsTV, director. Arctic Blaster Portable Pipe Thawing Machine System Model # Arctic Blaster. YouTube, YouTube, 21 Jan. 2015, Accessed 13 Feb. 2022.

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