Ottawa

How the humble fire hydrant has become a symbol of support for Ukraine

In normal times, they're basic pieces of public infrastructure. But since the war in Ukraine broke out, blue-and-yellow fire hydrants have unexpectedly taken on additional significance thanks to their colour scheme.

Blue-yellow colour scheme mirrors country's flag

A fire hydrant stands in a snowbank in Ottawa's Hintonburg neighbourhood on Wednesday. Many people have noticed hydrants like these have the same colour scheme as the Ukrainian flag, with some going as far to use them to share messages of support. (Trevor Pritchard/CBC)

In normal times, they're basic pieces of public infrastructure.

But since the war in Ukraine broke out, blue-and-yellow fire hydrants have unexpectedly taken on additional significance.

Mostly, people have just noted they bear the same colour scheme as the Ukrainian flag and can be taken as an unintentional statement of solidarity with the Ukrainian people.

But in some cases, they've been adorned with signs to show support for the country — like this hydrant in Ottawa's Westboro neighbourhood.

A sign in Cyrillic with the phrase Нет Войне — or "No War" in English — is affixed to a fire hydrant in Ottawa's Westboro neighbourhood on Wednesday. (Jennifer Beard/CBC)

Of course, the resemblance is strictly coincidental — and while blue and yellow fire hydrants are designed to send a message, it has nothing to do with the current conflict.

As CBC Kids helpfully explained, yellow is a common colour — along with red — for the base of a fire hydrant, because it stands out and is easy to spot during an emergency.

The colour of the cap, meanwhile, tells firefighters how much water the hydrant can pump out per minute. Hydrants with blue caps are designed to be the most powerful.

Still, people have noted the similarities, with one person on a recent Ottawa Reddit thread suggesting affixing small Ukrainian flags to hydrant poles can also make them more visible when they're buried in snowbanks.

Shows of support

There have been no issues yet with notes of support being attached to fire hydrants, but residents should ensure they don't inadvertently keep firefighters from doing their job, said Ottawa fire Chief Paul Hutt.

"The City of Ottawa understands that residents wish to show their support toward Ukraine," Hutt said in a statement.

"As a reminder to residents, hydrants are important tools to manage fire emergencies and need to remain accessible in the event of an emergency."

Shows of support have been passionate and frequent in Ottawa, with protests outside the Russian Embassy and at Parliament Hill and an overwhelmingly popular donation drive organized by the Ukrainian Canadian Congress.

As the war enters its third week, Western officials said Russian forces have made little progress on the ground in recent days but have intensified the bombardment of cities such as Mariupol where an airstrike on a maternity hospital killed three people Wednesday.

As efforts to reach a broad ceasefire failed, emergency workers renewed efforts to get vital food and medical supplies into besieged Ukrainian cities, and to get traumatized residents out.

According to the United Nations, more than two million people have fled Ukraine into neighbouring countries since Russia invaded the sovereign nation in late February.

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