fire hose
Sarah Biren
Sarah Biren
January 9, 2024 ·  4 min read

Fire Department Shares What Happens When You Park Your Car in Front of a Fire Hydrant

“Ever wonder what happens when a car is parked in front of a fire hydrant and a fire breaks out?” asks Anaheim Fire and Rescue on Twitter. Attached to the post are photos of an illegally parked car. In order to reach the badly-needed fire hydrant, firefighters had to smash two of the windows to thread the hose through the car. 

Is a closer parking spot worth the broken windows and the citation and towing fees to @AnaheimPD?” the tweet concludes. “@City_of_Anaheim residents please do not park in fire lanes.”

Don’t Park Next to a Fire Hydrant

Although parking next to a fire hydrant is a well-known traffic violation, that doesn’t stop folks from doing it. After all, it seems like a minor offense that will go unnoticed. And what are the odds that there will be a fire? But this is flawed thinking. Traffic violations aren’t little misdemeanors with fines you may or may not afford. They exist to protect people, not just you. For instance, you may decide that speeding is worth the risk of a ticket, but is it worth the risk of taking a life — perhaps your own? 

Parking by a fire hydrant may seem like an illegal but very convenient choice — plus you won’t stay long, right? But this screams an extreme lack of consideration for others’ safety. And if others’ safety isn’t convincing enough, perhaps paying for smashed windows, towing fees, and the ticket will be. 

While most comments applauded the Anaheim firefighters — and mocked the car owner for getting their just desserts — some did not. Many asked why the firefighters couldn’t have just run the hose over or around the car. After all, wouldn’t that be a faster solution than busting windows?

But this is not the case. This would create kinks in the hose, which would prevent it from flowing properly. Additionally, Anaheim Fire and Rescue responded to these critiques, saying, “We posted this incident to illustrate and educate, not to humiliate anyone. In answer as to why break the windows instead of going under, over, or around the car… it doesn’t work.  The hose needs a straight line out of the hydrant. We do not damage property unless it is needed.”

More Smashed Windows

According to the American Legal Publishing Corporation. “No person shall park or leave standing any vehicle within 15 feet in either direction of any fire hydrant for any period of time. The curb space within such area of 15 feet in either direction of such fire hydrant shall be painted yellow to indicate such prohibition.” (1958 Code l 16.74)

But that doesn’t stop many people. Anaheim Fire and Rescue’s tweet publicizes only one incident among many.

For instance, this same incident occurred in Halifax, Canada, in 2019. Firefighters had to break the car windows to spread the hose across the back seats in order to combat a fire raging through a strip mall. “A couple of broken windows is a small price to pay for the life, safety, of firefighters inside of a building,” said assistant fire chief Chuck Bezanson, with Halifax Regional Fire and Emergency to CBC.

When the firefighters arrived at the scene, they had tried to roll the hose underneath the car, but that didn’t work out. “The only other option was to go through the car,” said Bezanson. “Going over the car would have totally destroyed the outside, just the weight of the hose would have crushed everything.” All in all, it took four hours to completely extinguish the fire.

“We can’t pre-plan an emergency”

Similarly, Fire Chief Dan Pistilli has fought fires for about 30 years in Vancouver, and cars parked by fire hydrants remain his primary pet peeve. “They’re thinking ‘Oh, I’m only going to be there for five minutes, 10 minutes. Well, that doesn’t work for us. We can’t pre-plan an emergency,” he said to CTV News. He has gotten in the habit of leaving laminated cards on offending cars, warning them of the consequences. However, these drivers may not be acting out of ignorance. More often than not, they rely on luck instead of common sense to justify their illegal parking.

Additionally, Const. Amy Edwards with Halifax Regional Police commented on the strip mall fire, saying, “It comes down to public safety. You know, we have these rules and laws in place so that firefighters can get there and access the water that they need quickly to put out a fire. If they have to take extra time to work around vehicles or find owners that are blocking that water supply, it could endanger lives.”