Why Painting Over a Fire Hydrant Isn’t a Work of Art

One may have seen it before in different parts of the City. And some people may think it is a cute or unique to do. But whatever the intention, painting over a fire hydrant is considered vandalism by the San Francisco Fire Department (SFFD) and the SFPUC.

Painting over a fire hydrant with completely different colors of paint can obscure vital numbers on the hydrant that help firefighters identify different pressures.

Old paint hydrant (silver and red) with new hydrant (white).

The cost to remove the hydrant, clean, sand, prime and prepare the hydrants for repainting and paint them the city standard color (including staff time) is approximately $5000 each.

The penalty for vandalism varies based on circumstance, such as the amount of the defacement, whether it is a first offense, and other factors. Per California penal code 594, convicted vandals face fines or jail time or both.

SFPUC staff removed old painted hydrant (left) and are setting the new hydrant onto its new base.

The standard color used to paint all 10,500 hydrants in the City is white and firefighters look for that color in emergency situations. If someone decides to paint over the hydrant on their block, it puts property and residents in jeopardy. In the chaos of a fire seconds matter and if firefighters can’t easily find the nearest hydrant, that takes vital time away.

On the City’s fire hydrants, any discrepancy is usually due to fading or exposure to the elements. The SFPUC does general maintenance on fire hydrants every five years, which includes making sure they work and repainting them.

Those who spot vandalized fire hydrants can report them via e-mail to: 311.

SFPUC staff is stenciling the size of the pipe the new hydrant will be connected to.
SFPUC staff are removing the old hydrant.