Each year, the Fallbrook Public Utility District’s water storage tank uphill from South Mission Road is painted with new numbers. There’s a story about local Fallbrook history behind the fresh design on the “Rattlesnake Tank.”
The Fallbrook Public Utility District changes the painted numbers on the tank to reflect the year incoming seniors at Fallbrook High School will graduate. Staff recently painted over the “20,” changing it to “21” to welcome the graduating class of 2021.
The reason for the annual external makeover dates back 35 years. Before painting the tank, Fallbrook High seniors took on a longstanding dare. They would climb up the hill in the middle of the night, scale the tank and then paint it themselves.
“Since it’s a long way down, our staff of more than 35 years ago became concerned for their safety,” said Fallbrook PUD’s Noelle Denke. “So we installed a fence around the tank.”
But it didn’t deter the energetic students. Instead, they began jumping the fence in the middle of the night. So the District struck a deal with the students. If they would stop risking their safety for the dare, the district would safely paint the tank every year to commemorate them.
“And we’ve been doing it ever since,” said Denke.
Safely saluting seniors with 25-foot high signage
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, the Fallbrook Public Utility District makes arrangements with the owners to power down their towers. Then crews safely hoist themselves up to the tower and get to work painting.
Rattlesnake Tank was built in the early 1950s and is one of Fallbrook’s oldest and most visible water tanks.