Fire hydrant art causes concern in Amherstburg

Amherstburg's fire department is concerned residents will think painting fire hydrants is allowed everywhere, when the town only permits it in the downtown.

Town doesn't want to end long-standing tradition

Amherstburg's fire department is expressing concern about the town allowing hydrants to be painted even though it contradicts the Ontario Fire Code.

For more than 20 years the Town of Amherstburg has allowed many of the typically yellow hydrants in the downtown to be turned into art. Most recently, high school students expressed their patriotism by covering them in designs inspired by Canada's 150th birthday.

However, hydrants must be specifically colour-coded, according to Ontario's Fire Protection and Prevention Act. The hydrant's cap colour tells firefighters how much water flows out. For example, red caps signal the lowest flow rate, while blue markings mean it has the most capacity.

"We're fully aware of the hydrants that have been painted," said Amherstburg Deputy Fire Chief Lee Tome.

Some residents in downtown Amherstburg weren't aware painting a hydrant is against provincial rules.

"If it's been around for 20 years, just leave it be," said Mary Anne Kresky.

For others, it's a conundrum that gives them pause.

"It is beautiful. It does bring out the heritage in the town," said Jennifer Starling "However, it does go against the code. Rules are in place for a reason."

'Firefighter safety issue'

Outside of the 13 decorated hydrants near the Ford Malden National Historic Site, Amherstburg Fire said residents elsewhere aren't permitted to paint them. Tome's worried residents will see the colourful creations and want to replicate it in their own neighbourhood. A number of people have made the request, but they've all been denied.

"It's a concern for us if someone was to paint over a hydrant and we weren't aware of it," Tome said. "It could be a firefighter safety issue. If we think that we have a lot of water out of that hydrant and start putting firefighters in an interior of a building fighting a fire and don't have enough water."

I wouldn't want to be the one to stop the tradition- Aldo DiCarlo, Amherstburg mayor

The age-old tradition of painting fire hydrants fits into downtown Amherstburg's historic feel, according to Mayor Aldo DiCarlo. The dull, yellow hydrants look out of place, he said.

"It is something that is not normally accepted, but we do it anyway in the Town of Amherstburg," said DiCarlo.

Ending this unusual policy isn't something DiCarlo thinks will happen, unless the "province comes down on us."

"I wouldn't want to be the one to stop the tradition," he said.

Travelling through the City of Windsor, you'll only see the typical yellow hydrants with specifically-coloured caps.

EnWin had to turn down an influx of requests last year to transform them into a popular cartoon character known as a Minion.