Spray-Painted Fire Hydrants Threaten Public Safety

April 16, 2014

Spray-painted fire hydrants in San Francisco are creating a public safety threat and costing the city tens of thousands of dollars, a newspaper reported.

Thirty-five to 40 hydrants have been spray-painted in recent months, Bill Gunn, with the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, told the San Francisco Chronicle in a story published over the weekend. Though some may consider the work public art, Gunn said the city has to repair the hydrants because they are stamped and painted with tags that tell firefighters their water pressure, distance from a shutoff valve and the water main they are connected to.

San Francisco has two types of hydrants – one low-pressure, the other larger and sturdier that can pump San Francisco Bay water.

First responders could lose precious time if the pressure and other information on the hydrant isn’t immediately available, Gunn said.

“If a firefighter rolls up and there is no information, they have to look at another hydrant or call it in. That’s time wasted, and it’s a lot of money,” he said.

Each fire hydrant costs about $4,000 to repair. A sledgehammer has to sometimes be used to remove hydrant caps because the vandals’ paint causes them to stick, the Chronicle reported. The hydrants have been spray-painted silver, neon green and red.

“When that paint dries, it can make it difficult to get the caps off the outlet or open the hydrant gate, and that all delays us,” San Francisco fire Lt. Mindy Talmadge said. “We will get it off — if we have to bust it we will, but it definitely delays our operation.”

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