The Fallbrook Public Utility District’s water storage tank uphill from South Mission Road has received a fresh set of painted numbers the past 40 years, but not everyone knows the story behind the annual makeover.
FPUD crews change the painted numbers on the tank to reflect the year incoming seniors at Fallbrook High School will graduate. A two-person team made up of district employees Colter Shannon (who also did it last year) and Martin Serrano performed the August task, painting over the “22” and changing it to “23” to welcome the graduating class of 2023.
It took district staff about five hours to paint the 25-foot-tall numbers onto the 3.6 million-gallon tank. Staff compressed the job, through the magic of time-lapse video, to about eight seconds.
“Parents and Fallbrook High seniors anxiously await the painting of the tank and begin calling the office early in June to find out when we’re doing it,” said Noelle Denke, FPUD public affairs officer. “This year, it’s especially exciting for them because so many of them are back on campus and need something to look forward to.”
Prior to painting the tank about four decades ago, Fallbrook High seniors would climb up the hill in the middle of the night as a traditional dare, scale the tank and then paint it themselves.
Because their annual antics took place at a significant height and in the dark, FPUD staff became concerned for student safety. Workers first tried installing a fence to prevent access by the yearly stealth painting crew.
The fence failed to deter the enterprising students. Instead, they began jumping the fence later at night. District officials struck a deal with the students. If they stopped risking their safety for the dare, FPUD would safely paint the tank yearly to commemorate them.
“We’ve been doing it ever since,” said Denke.
A 25-foot salute to Fallbrook High’s graduating seniors
Since the tank shares the space with several cell towers, Fallbrook Public Utility District arranges with them 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.
(Editor’s note: The Fallbrook Public Utility District is one of the San Diego County Water Authority’s 24 member agencies that deliver water across the metropolitan San Diego region.)