Where's the Hydrant?
© 2001 Capt. Willis Lamm, Water Supply Officer, Moraga-Orinda (CA) Fire District

Can you find the fire hydrant in this picture? You can't. It's completely obscured by several feet of thick, thorny blackberry bushes. If a fire were to occur in this neighborhood, fire fighters would have to waste time probing the bushes for the hydrant, then hack their way to it. By the time water supply was established, the effective period for an initial attack on the fire would be long past.

While this is one of the more dramatic illustrations, fire hydrants are routinely obstructed throughout many communities. Every year fire crews attempt to beat back the vegetation and every year many property owners allow the hydrants to become overgrown again.

The fire code places this responsibility squarely on the property owner. Vegetation, landscaping and other improvements are to be constructed and maintained at all times so as not to impede the clear visibility of the hydrant from all approach directions. Furthermore a minimum clearance of three (3) feet shall be maintained around the hydrant to allow safe operation by fire personnel and there shall be nothing present which interferes with their connecting hoses and operating hydrant valves.

While many residents comply with fire agencies' informal requests to maintain clearance around, and access to, hydrants as required by law, a growing number are ignoring this responsibility. The Moraga-Orinda Fire District will issue formal notices to these individuals which is the first step in the legal process to enforce compliance.

The district would prefer to work cooperatively with all property owners, however the safety of the public is our primary responsibility and if our informal and more cordial efforts are ignored, we will pursue formal means of enforcement. Most of Orinda is designated as a very high fire danger area and to not be able to access a fire hydrant to combat a potentially significant fire presents an unreasonable risk to the community.


Uniform Fire Code Section 1001.7.1 states: "Posts, fences, vehicles, growth, trash, storage and other materials and things shall not be placed or kept near fire hydrants, fire department inlet connections or fire department control valves in a manner that would prevent such equipment from being immediately discernible. The fire department shall not be deterred or hindered from gaining immediate access to fire protection equipment or hydrants."

Uniform Fire Code Section 1001.7.2 states: "A 3-foot clear space shall be maintained around the circumference of fire hydrants except as otherwise required or approved."

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