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Rattlesnake Tank paint recognizes high school seniors

For anyone who has ever wondered why the water tank up the hill from South Mission Road is painted with numbers each year, here’s a little Fallbrook history. Every year, our crews change 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 “23,” changing it to “24,” to welcome the next graduating class.

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Colter, Matt, Martin and Donald spent 5+ hours painting the tank with the new school year.

The reason for the annual external makeover? For more than 40 years, FPUD has painted the tank as the ultimate tribute to Fallbrook’s high school seniors. And as much as this recognizes the class of Fallbrook’s future, it has more to do with Fallbrook’s past.

In the years before we 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’s a long way down, our staff of more than 40 years ago became concerned for their safety.

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This is how Rattlesnake Tank looked in 1981, when students painted it themselves, on a dare.

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

It took district staff about five 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, we make arrangements with them to power-down their towers. Then our 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.

Watch this 5+ hour paint job unfold in just 13 seconds.