You’ve been driving around for what feels like hours and you’ve been looking for the perfect parking space and then you see it! But… there’s a fire hydrant on the sidewalk. Does that mean you can park there or do you need to keep driving?
Typically, you are allowed to park no closer than 15 feet from a fire hydrant. However, this distance can vary somewhat in different cities or countries.
Let’s take a look at this and some other important facts about parking near fire hydrants in more detail, so you don’t get yourself in trouble.
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How Close Can You Park To A Fire Hydrant?
Each state is free to set its own laws and each country too, however, a good rule of thumb in the United States is to assume that you must not park within 15 feet of a fire hydrant.
It is important to note that it does not matter what color a fire hydrant is, what it might be used for, what color the lines on the pavement are, etc. the law tends to be “don’t park within 15 feet of a fire hydrant” and does not dwell on other specifics.
Now, as they won’t mark out 15-feet on the ground to give you a guide as to how much room to leave, you should know that this is about the same length as a standard sedan car.
15 feet is the usually required distance, however it can vary. For example, Salt Lake City Utah made this video about parking near a fire hydrant:
This isn’t an arbitrary distance.
It’s the distance that most fire services will need to be able to identify the fire hydrant on a busy street and get their water supply hose connected to it without damaging anything around them or impeding the ability of firefighters to do their jobs.
How Can I Be Sure That I Am At Least 15-Feet Away From A Hydrant?
It’s best to leave more space than not enough. However, if you want to be certain, then we’d encourage you to carry a measuring tape or a laser measuring device.
If you’re the person closest to the hydrant, you’re the person that the city’s parking wardens are likely to ticket. There’s no getting around that.
What If I Park In Front of A Fire Hydrant (and Then There’s A Fire)?
Don’t. Seriously, don’t.
The best-case scenario is likely to involve no fire. That is, you park your car, nothing catches fire but by the time you return, the city has been notified that you have parked there.
Then you may face a parking ticket, you might have been clamped or your car may have been towed, or a combination of any or all of these things.
You will then need to pay money to use your car again and it’s not going to be cheap.
The worst-case, on the other hand, means that the fire department turned up to a fire and your car was in the way.
The law is quite clear in this case that your car matters less than the fire department’s need to save lives.
They can (and will) smash your windows to run the hose through your car, your car is likely to be full of water and you’re still not getting off without a fine.
Take a look at this video, it actually happens:
Yes, even if the fire department has to trash your car in order to do their job, you will be paying a hefty fine to the city.
You might also have cost someone their life if your parking delays a response to the fire for long enough, that’s something that is going to sit heavily on anyone’s conscience.
Are There Exceptions Based On The Color Of The Curb Or The Hydrant?
You heard wrong, sadly.
There are no exceptions to the rule based on the color of the curb.
The curb should be painted red because it makes it easier to visually identify that 15-foot area from the hydrant, but the city may not have been able to paint, yet, and the law doesn’t care about the color of curbs, it says “don’t park within 15-feet of a fire hydrant”.
In Los Angeles, for example,
The same goes for the color of the hydrant, you may have been told that, for example, if the hydrant is grey, it’s OK to park there, it’s not.
Again, the law says, “don’t park within 15-feet of a fire hydrant”.
Are There Any Exceptions?
The law isn’t meant to inconvenience you, it’s there to ensure the safety of firefighters and the general public.
That means in most places, there will be an exception to the law if you (the driver) remain in your car and the engine remains running, so that if the fire service arrives, you can immediately move your vehicle.
You may load or unload passengers or goods during this time too.
But that’s it.
You cannot park your car in front of a hydrant and then get out of the car.
What If The Fire Hydrant Is Broken?
When we said, “no exceptions”, we meant “no exceptions”.
No offense, but the driver of a car is not a fire hydrant maintenance person and it’s not their job to make a decision on whether or not a fire hydrant is viable for use in fighting a fire.
If you want to do that job, you’ll need to work for the city and be driving a city vehicle with a permit to assess fire hydrants.
Otherwise, no parking near a fire hydrant even if you think the hydrant is broken.
The judge for your parking ticket is unlikely to be sympathetic to the cry of “I thought it was broken.”
What If I Only Need To Park For A Minute?
This won’t cut it, I’m afraid.
The firefighters who arrive on the scene are not insured to drive your vehicle nor are they meant to take responsibility for it. And if there is a fire, they don’t have time to move your car anyways.
It’s your vehicle and the only person who can take responsibility for it, is you, and that means you have to be inside the vehicle to make use of the only exception, with the keys in the car and the engine running.
What If A Sign Says I Can Park In Front Of The Hydrant At Certain Times Of Day?
Some states allow for signage that permits parking at certain hours. However, you must be certain that the sign relates to the fire hydrant and not to something else.
So, for example, if you see a sign that relates to cleaning the street which says, “You can’t park between X hour and Y hour.” This sign is not giving you permission to park within 15-feet of a hydrant at any time of day.
Even if you turn up after Y hour and intend to leave before X hour. The sign is in respect to street cleaning, not the fire hydrant.
A sign that allows parking near a fire hydrant will clearly indicate the hydrant (by use of an arrow) and explicitly state that it relates to the hydrant.
Any other sign simply won’t cut it.
How Much Is A Ticket For Parking Too Close To A Fire Hydrant?
It depends on your state, municipality, or even country as to how much you will be charged for parking too close to a fire hydrant.
It won’t be cheap, that’s for sure. Fines for parking offenses typically start at around $100 but can escalate if you don’t pay them quickly.
Please don’t think that if you can afford to park near a fire hydrant that you should, either, this is more than a driving offense, it’s an act that willfully puts other people’s lives at risk.
Just find another spot, it won’t kill you and it may help prevent other people from being killed too.
I Got A Ticket And I Was More Than 15-Feet Away?
OK, don’t panic. If you really were more than 15-feet away, you can get your ticket canceled.
The first thing to do is measure the distance between your car and the hydrant and take a photograph of your placement and the distance. Make sure there is some sort of landmark that is identifiable for that street in the photo (otherwise, it’s just a picture of some tape).
Then make a little video on your smartphone of you walking off 16 steps between the hydrant and your car.
Submit the photograph and video to the court as your defense and with a bit of luck, they should rescind the ticket for you.
However, if you discover during this exercise that you are closer than 15-feet? Well, it’s time to reappraise how you park near hydrants and pay up for an expensive lesson.
Sorry, but you’ve been warned, parking too close to a hydrant can endanger other people’s lives, and if you only got a ticket? You were lucky, this time, you didn’t endanger someone’s life.
What Is A Fire Hydrant? Why Are They Important?
A fire hydrant in North America is an access point for firefighters to tap into a mains water supply. They are commonly, but not always, red valve points that stick out from the sidewalk.
Water is a key ingredient in extinguishing fires. A fire hydrant ensures that there is an adequate water supply for firefighters to tackle a blaze where it may arise.
Is It True That Some Countries, Like The UK, Have No Fire Hydrants?
No, it’s not true.
What is true, is that in the UK, a fire hydrant is installed under the sidewalk and thus, there’s only a little metal flap on the floor which is opened for the fire department to connect to.
This is indicated by a small yellow-colored marker nearby and it’s illegal to park too close to these underground fire hydrants too.
Fire fighting requires water and the easiest way to get water is to get it from a local supply.
Sure, a fire engine can transport some water but not very much (in terms of what’s needed to tackle a huge blaze) and it’s not terribly economic to do so.
So, everywhere that there’s working infrastructure, you will find some kind of fire hydrant, even if it doesn’t look exactly the same as the ones you find in the US.
How Far Can You Park From A Fire Hydrant?
While there is a minimum distance that you must keep away from a fire hydrant, there’s no legal requirement to be parked near a fire hydrant.
So, you can, in theory, park as far away from a fire hydrant as you feel like, and the further you go, the easier it will be for the local fire department to get near to one in an emergency.