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Only fire departments, and occasionally other units of local governments, are allowed to open fire hydrants. Because of the significant public safety risk of having inadequate water pressure with which to fight fires, punishment for illegally opening a fire hydrant tends to be severe.
There is a Uniform Fire Code in the United States that sets forth model laws about firefighting and fire protection systems for states to implement. In sections 1001.6.2 of that code, it says: “Fire hydrants and fire appliances required by this code to be installed and maintained shall not be removed, tampered with or otherwise disturbed except for the purpose of extinguishing fire, training, recharging or making necessary repairs, or when allowed by the fire department.”
More generally, the section just before that, 1001.6.1 declares that “[a]pparatus, equipment and appurtenances belonging to or under the supervision and control of the fire department shall not be molested, tampered with, damaged or otherwise disturbed unless authorized by the chief.”[i] This uniform law might be incorporated into state statutes, but is more likely to be in the municipal or county code[ii] because fire departments, even when operated by volunteers, are authorized by those governments. Because opening a fire hydrant, outside of municipal authority, is an offense against the government, doing so is a crime. Therefore, punishment for violating a fire hydrant law involves at least a ticket and at most a jail term.
[i] Unif. Fire Code §1001.6.1, 2 (1997).[ii] Local codes are available through http://www.spl.org/default.asp?pageID=collection_municodes.