A fire hydrant with a 500 gallon per minute flow is seen in Portland. Credit: Courtesy of the Portland Water District / CBS 13

Officials are warning people in Portland not to paint fire hydrants because it can jeopardize public safety.

The Portland Water District said firefighters have recently reported that several fire hydrants in Portland have been painted by unauthorized persons.

Officials said painting hydrants non-standard colors can jeopardize public safety and a firefighter’s ability to fight fires because hydrants are color-coded to indicate the water flow available at that location.

The Portland Water District also uses specialized paint that helps firefighters find hydrants in the dark.

“While I appreciate the interest in helping to keep our hydrants looking shiny and new, color-coding hydrants is one way we communicate with the fire departments and support fire protection efforts,” Director of Water Services Jim Wallace said.

Painting hydrants, which are public property, may be considered criminal mischief, and people identified as having painted a hydrant may be prosecuted.

The Portland Water District maintains 5,212 public hydrants in the Greater Portland water system and repaints about a quarter of the hydrants each year.

Bonnet flanges are painted specific colors and caps are coated with a reflective paint. In addition to the painting program, hydrants are inspected each year to ensure they are working properly and are available for fire protection.

The Portland Water District will be putting decals on select hydrants to help inform the public of the importance of color-coded hydrants.