Finding parking on the street, especially in dense residential areas or a busy city, can be a challenge. The space around a fire hydrant might look like the perfect spot to park, and it might seem like there’s plenty of room, perfect for parking, on either side of the hydrant. However, there are strict rules about how close to a fire hydrant you can park, and disobeying these laws can have severe consequences.
How far from a fire hydrant should you park?
Different states, cities, or even areas might have different rules about how close to a fire hydrant you can park, but in the United States, the law usually states that you need to park at least 15 feet away from a fire hydrant.
This law isn’t always the same in different countries. For example, in most cities in Canada, you need to be 3 meters or about 9 feet away from a fire hydrant. If you’re traveling to a new state or country, you might want to check the area’s laws before deciding how close to park.
Why do you need to park so far from hydrants?
Fifteen feet might seem like an excessive amount of space, as it leaves a good deal of room around the fire hydrant. However, fire hoses are extremely stiff and cumbersome, so it’s very difficult to maneuver them around any kind of obstacle.
A vehicle, particularly a large van, SUV, or truck, can also block access to the hydrant. Firefighters might not be able to easily join the hose to the hydrant in this case.
A vehicle can also block a fire hydrant from sight. Firefighters are given the location of the fire hydrant, but if they’re not familiar with the area, they might not immediately know where it is.
A hydrant’s bright red or yellow coloring acts as a beacon, catching firefighters’ eyes, but if a car is in front of it, it can take much longer for the firefighters to get to it.
Even a small fire constitutes an emergency. Firefighters do not have time to search for the hydrant, move the hose around obstacles, or get people to move their cars out of the way. Time is of the essence when fighting a fire, and every second counts.
What happens if you park in front of a fire hydrant?
If you park in front of a fire hydrant or within 15 feet of either side of the hydrant, you can often receive a ticket. The fine for breaking this parking law varies from state to state, but it usually averages about $100.
According to csusm.edu, California vehicle code CVC 22514, the fine for parking in front of a fire hydrant is $80.
If there is a fire and the fire hydrant you’re parked near or in front of needs to be used, however, the consequences will be much worse than a simple ticket. On top of a large fine, firefighters can damage your car as needed to access the hydrant, hook up the hose, and run the hose where it needs to go.
If a car is parked close enough to the hydrant, the firefighters might break the car’s windows and run the hose through the car, and they’re not liable for any damages. On top of broken windows, the inside of your car will most likely be soaked.
The fact that firefighters can legally damage your vehicle if you park in front or too close to a hydrant may seem severe, but firefighters must work quickly to stop the fire before it spreads.
If they take extra time to maneuver the hose around your car, it can cost precious minutes, and someone could lose their home, business, or pets. It might even cost someone their life.
The following video shows what can happen if you park next to a fire hydrant.
Usually, the curb near the fire hydrant is painted either red or yellow. This shows you how far 15 feet is on either side, so you don’t have to guess how far away you need to park.
However, curb painting doesn’t always happen promptly. The curbs in front of some fire hydrants are gray, which might make it seem like it’s safe and legal to park in front of or near them.
This is almost never the case, though. It’s simply that the area hasn’t been painted, and parking too close to a hydrant can leave you with a ticket or even a damaged car.
The paint on curbs can also be worn away or obscured, so it’s always a good idea to use your best judgment and try to park 15 feet away, even if the curb isn’t clearly marked or a car on the other side has parked closer to the hydrant.
Exceptions to the Parking Rule
There are almost no exceptions to the laws regarding how close to a fire hydrant you can park. However, if you’re only dropping someone off or picking them up, you can sometimes temporarily park close to a fire hydrant. You might even be able to park in front of it.
For this to be a legal and safe exception, however, the driver must remain in the driver’s seat, and the car must stay running. This way, on the off chance that there is a fire, the driver can quickly move the vehicle out of the fire department’s way.
You can tell if this type of temporary parking is allowed by checking the curb color. Red curbs tell you that no parking is allowed at any time, including stopping to drop someone off or pick someone up.
Yellow curbs do not allow for parking but make an exception for temporary stops. If the curb isn’t painted, use common sense to decide whether to stop, and make sure you can get out of the way quickly.