Don’t Do This if You Have a Fire Hydrant on Your Property in Indiana
Fire hydrants have been a part of our landscape for hundreds of years and are an essential tool for firefighters attempting to put out a fire as quickly as possible. While they're commonly found on sidewalks, they can be installed on private property such as your front yard. If you're someone who puts a lot of work into making their yard look as nice as it possibly can and feels like a fire hydrant is a bit of an eyesore, you may decide to try and hide it or cover it up with some landscaping. But, can you legally do that even though the hydrant is on your/private property?
What Indiana Code Says About Hiding or Covering a Fire Hydrant on Private Property
The Marion, Indiana Fire Department recently posted the following reminder to its Facebook page:
I noticed the post didn't say it was illegal. It simply stresses the importance of hydrants and how they are used. So, I decided to do a little digging to see if there was something in the books that would make doing something like this against the law.
I reached out to a couple of contacts I have with the Evansville Fire Department to see if they knew off the top of their heads. One said he wasn't aware of any, but that doing something like this was "an unbelievably bad idea for a homeowner or neighborhood to allow this to be done when seconds literally count when getting water to a house fire."
He reached out to the Chief Fire Marshall to see if there were any statutes or ordinances in place that would prohibit covering or hiding a hydrant and it turns out there are. Two of them, actually.
Indiana Fire Code 507.5.4 deals with obstruction of hydrants and states the following:
Unobstructed access to fire hydrants shall be maintained at all times. The fire department shall not be deterred or hindered from gaining immediate access to fire protection equipment or fire hydrants.
Meanwhile, Indiana Fire Code 507.5.5 covers the space around a hydrant and says,
A 3-foot (914mm) clear space shall be maintained around the circumference of fire hydrants, except as otherwise required or approved.
Neither code specifically mentions hydrants on private property. However, both apply to all hydrants, which would include the one in your yard.
Penalties and Fines for Violating Indiana Fire Codes
The Fire Marshall did not include what would happen to a homeowner if they violate either of these codes. But to be fair, I didn't think to ask. Thankfully, the internet exists and I searched to see if I could find the answer myself. What I found is that there doesn't seem to be a specific penalty or fine set by the state. Instead, the decision is left to each individual city or town. Fort Wayne, for example, charges residents a $100 fine if a property owner "fails to correct a cited violation." If the problem isn't fixed "after 30 calendar days from the date and time shown" on the original citation, the fine jumps to $150.
Check with your local city or county government to see what the penalty is for your area. Or better yet, save yourself the trouble and just make sure the fire hydrant on your property is in line with the fire code whether you think it's an eyesore or not. You'll be glad you did if your house is the one on fire.