An adequate supply of water is a crucial aspect of fighting fires. October 3-9 is National Fire Prevention Week, and Louisville Water is an important ally in the city’s fight against fires. In fact, Louisville Water was founded, in part, to address this the city’s concerns over the threat of fire. Its 1854 charter reads, the company “shall furnish water to the city of Louisville for the extinguishment of fires.”
Early in Louisville history, city leaders worked to address concerns over the threat of fire. An 1812 ordinance stated that every homeowner earning more than $40 a year was to keep two fire buckets in his house. A year later, Louisville got its first horse-drawn hand-pumped fire engine. These measures helped to improve the delivery of water, but not its supply.
In 1858, while the construction of the Louisville Water was underway, the Steam Engine Fire Department of Louisville was formed. To give the newly formed professional fire department the water it needed, Louisville Water crews connected the city’s fire cisterns to the water mains. By the end of 1861, 100 cisterns were connected to the water system. The first five fire hydrants, then known as “fire-plugs,” were installed in 1866.
Today, Louisville Water owns and maintains nearly 24,000 fire hydrants in its service area. These hydrants are flow-tested and maintained every year to ensure they are in good working order. This is especially important during winter months when the hydrants are at risk of freezing.
Louisville Water crews replace an average of 200 to 250 hydrants each year.
The company has a strong partnership with the Louisville Division of Fire and the suburban fire districts. It’s a much different working relationship than the one in 1860, but the shared goal is the same: Keeping the Louisville area safe.
See more: A more in-depth story on our history of fire prevention.