Rattlesnake Tank paint recognizes high school seniors


Last updated 9/10/2020 at 1:24pm

FPUD staff are ready to paint over the "20" since the Fallbrook High class of 2020 has graduated.

FALLBROOK – For anyone who has ever wondered why the water tank up the hill from South Mission Road is painted with numbers each year, here is a little Fallbrook history. Every year, the Fallbrook Public Utility District changes the painted numbers on "Rattlesnake Tank" to reflect the year the incoming seniors at Fallbrook High School will graduate.

FPUD staff just painted over the "20," changing it to "21," to welcome the graduating class of 2021.

The reason for the annual external makeover? For more than 35 years, FPUD has painted the tank as the ultimate tribute to Fallbrook's high school seniors. And as much as this act recognizes the class of Fallbrook's future, it has more to do with Fallbrook's past.

In the years before FPUD began painting the tank, seniors – taking on a dare – would climb up the hill in the middle of the night, scale the tank and then paint it themselves. Since it is a long way down, FPUD's staff of more than 35 years ago became concerned for their safety.

So, they installed a fence around the tank. But that did not deter the lively bunch. They just began jumping the fence in the middle of the night. So, FPUD struck a deal with them. If they would stop risking their safety for the dare, FPUD would paint the tank every year to commemorate them. And they've been doing it ever since.

It takes district staff about eight hours to paint the 25-foot-tall numbers onto the 3.6 million-gallon tank. Since the tank shares the space with several cell towers, they make arrangements with the cell companies to power-down their towers. Then the crews hoist themselves up to the tower and get to work, painting.

Rattlesnake Tank was built in the early 1950s and is one of FPUD's oldest and most visible water tanks.

Submitted by Fallbrook Public Utility District.

The Fallbrook High 1981 yearbook features an article on the tradition of painting the senior class's graduation year on Rattlesnake Tank.


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