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Hydrant silhouettes are for fire response

While driving through Ashland, I noticed that there are several painted trash cans on the roadways. I was on Ashland Street and Siskiyou Boulevard and saw them all along the road in several areas and wanted to know what those signs are for?

— Will H.

Well, Will, first we'll apologize to you for our delayed response. We're still catching up on our holiday mail — from 2008.

But now you owe an apology — to the painters who so lovingly crafted what you referred to as "trash cans" on the city streets. Even public works paint crews are artists deep down, and they are probably cut to the quick to know that you didn't recognize their depictions of fire hydrants.

Yes, those are fire hydrants, not trash cans. The idea is to paint the silhouettes on the streets so that firefighters can find their water sources faster when responding to a blaze.

Marking the spot also helps firefighters find hydrants that are hidden behind illegally parked cars, snow and shrubs — although fire officials also ask residents who live near fire hydrants to ensure that vegetation is kept at least 3 feet away from the hydrants.

A city press release last fall noted that some communities mark hydrants with blue, reflective dots. But Ashland opted against that idea because indentations would have to be carved in the street to put the reflectors in a place where they wouldn't be scraped by snowplows.

The city said it planned to evaluate the effectiveness, durability and cost of the marking system throughout the winter, according to the release.

As for the injured egos of the painters, we hope they realize they are not alone and they now join the long list of artists whose work was not appreciated in their own time.

Send questions to "Since You Asked," Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by e-mail to youasked@mailtribune.com. We're sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.