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Rattlesnake Tank Gets Class of 2023 Makeover

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.

Fallbrook Public Utility District changes the painted numbers on its Rattlesnake Tank to reflect the year incoming seniors at Fallbrook High School will graduate. Photo: Fallbrook Public Utility District

Rattlesnake Tank Gets Class of 2023 Makeover

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   

Rattlesnake Tank

One of the last attempts by Fallbrook High School students to paint the tank themselves in 1981. Photo: Fallbrook Public Utility District

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.)

Class of 2022 Cheers New FPUD Rattlesnake Tank Artwork

Although the Fallbrook Public Utility District water storage tank uphill from South Mission Road has received a fresh set of painted numbers annually for 35 years, this week’s update was the most anticipated makeover ever.

FPUD crews change the painted numbers on the tank to reflect the year incoming seniors will graduate at Fallbrook High School. A three-person team made up of district employees Matt Lian, Colter Shannon, and Toby Stoneburner recently painted over the “21,” changing it to “22” to welcome the graduating class of 2022.

Fallbrook Rattlesnake Tank Artwork Honors High School Seniors

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 District changes the painted numbers on the tank to reflect the year incoming seniors at Fallbrook High School will graduate.

Fallbrook Public Utility District changes the painted numbers on its Rattlesnake Tank to reflect the year incoming seniors at Fallbrook High School will graduate. Photo: Fallbrook Public Utility District

Fallbrook Rattlesnake Tank Artwork Honors High School Seniors

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

Fallbrook Public Utility District utility workers Colter Shannon and Bryan Wagner do the honors changing the painted numbers on Rattlesnake Tank for the Class of 2021. Photo: Fallbrook Public Utility District

Fallbrook Public Utility District utility workers Colter Shannon and Bryan Wagner do the honors of changing the painted numbers on Rattlesnake Tank for the Class of 2021. Photo: Fallbrook Public Utility District

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.