POLL Lack of fire hydrants hampering firefighters in some areas of Collier

Golden Gate Firefighter Derek Jones douses remaining flames at a fire at 1361 Golden Gate Blvd. in the Golden Gate Estates on Wednesday evening. Lexey Swall/StaffLexey Swall/Staff

Photo by LEXEY SWALL // Buy this photo

Golden Gate Firefighter Derek Jones douses remaining flames at a fire at 1361 Golden Gate Blvd. in the Golden Gate Estates on Wednesday evening. Lexey Swall/StaffLexey Swall/Staff

— When firefighters are battling flames, their best ammunition is water.

“You don’t want to be going into battle with a limited supply of ammo,” Naples Fire Chief Steve McInerny said.

But that’s a dilemma firefighters in some areas of Collier County face frequently because of a lack of adequate fire hydrant coverage, local fire officials say.

In the last two months, there have been at least five Collier County house fires that have required firefighters to truck in water rather than hooking up to hydrants. That includes a fire Wednesday that engulfed a 4,000-square-foot Golden Gate Estates home.

The blaze required multiple fire districts to deliver reserve ammunition using water tenders — tanker trucks that have the sole purpose of shuttling about 3,000 gallons of water to fires.

Most fire trucks carry only about 750 gallons of water.

Nolan Sapp, assistant fire chief for the Golden Gate fire department, said three tenders were needed to battle Wednesday’s fire.

Even then, he said, each truck had to travel about a mile to Max Hasse Community Park on Golden Gate Boulevard to refill on multiple occasions.

It takes about five minutes to refill the tenders.

“There were a couple of times we lost water,” he said, “but we regained it fairly quickly.”

Sapp said that in this case water supply didn’t affect the outcome of the fire damage to the house. Given the intensity of the fire, by the time responders arrived, he estimated the fire was going to gut the home no matter how much water they had.

The home of Marvin Johns was engulfed in flames early Saturday, Oct. 21, 2006, by the time ENFD firefighters arrived on-scene. They were hampered in their efforts by a lack of fire hydrants and limited access due to narrow, tree-lined roads.

Angie Davis / Special to the Collier Citizen

The home of Marvin Johns was engulfed in flames early Saturday, Oct. 21, 2006, by the time ENFD firefighters arrived on-scene. They were hampered in their efforts by a lack of fire hydrants and limited access due to narrow, tree-lined roads.

“I would say anytime you go to an area without hydrants, it’s going to be more difficult,” said Nick Biondo, deputy chief and fire marshal for the East Naples Fire Department. “When you don’t have hydrants, you don’t have the luxury of an almost endless supply of water.”

But it certainly made the job more difficult, he admitted.

Fire officials seem to agree that the lack of fire hydrants in many areas of Collier County is at best inconvenient and at worst dangerous for residents and firefighters.

“I would say anytime you go to an area without hydrants, it’s going to be more difficult,” said Nick Biondo, deputy chief and fire marshal for the East Naples Fire Department. “When you don’t have hydrants, you don’t have the luxury of an almost endless supply of water.”

It’s a logistical predicament, he said, especially when large-scale fires require personnel to leave the scene of a disaster just to pick up more water.

Jamie Cunningham, an assistant fire chief for North Naples Fire Control and Rescue District, said there have been situations in the past where a lack of hydrants resulted in increased property damage because of a loss in water continuity.

■ ■ ■

The problem isn’t new.

A fire code requirement dating back to 1998 has forced any new development to have hydrants at least 500 feet apart and in most cases 300 feet apart. However, many developments built before 1998 have limited to no hydrant coverage.

The chief obstacle to retrofitting these communities with hydrants is cost.

“It comes down to who is going to foot the bill for it and what the utilities can provide,” Biondo said.

It’s an especially acute problem in areas east of Collier Boulevard that don’t have central water utilities.

One study on bringing potable and wastewater service to a 5-square-mile area east of Collier Boulevard showed a total cost of $145 million or about $107,000 per parcel.

Should a new study be done on the costs of adding hydrants in Collier?

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John Torre, a spokesman for Collier County government, said the county initiated some studies in 2005 to look into the cost of bringing utility lines — and hydrants — to the residents who live east of Collier Boulevard.

One study on bringing potable and wastewater service to a 5-square-mile area east of Collier Boulevard showed a total cost of $145 million or about $107,000 per parcel.

“There were public meetings to get feedback on these various scenarios, and there was very little support expressed because of the costs that would be placed on the individual homeowner,” Torre wrote in an e-mail to the Daily News.

The problem isn’t limited to the Estates and isolated rural homes either.

Sapp said half of Golden Gate lacks fire hydrant access as well. Areas in North Naples, such as the Oakes Boulevard area, Livingston Woods and Pine Ridge Estates, also lack adequate coverage.

A study on Marco Island showed that many residents live outside the recommended distance for hydrants. Marco Island City Council will discuss in October a new hydrant system that could cost $6 million. Marco Island Fire Chief Mike Murphy has requested a water tender as a short-term fix.

The city of Naples also is looking at installing new hydrants, Chief McInerny said.

■ ■ ■

Though it’s not ideal, fire officials admit that in most cases their firefighters get the job done by trucking in water.

“Water tenders for us is pretty much just the normal response,” said Sapp, of the Golden Gate fire district.

A temporary hydrant installed by Naples City workers saved the day during the May 29, 2008, wildfire in the Estates.

Submitted

A temporary hydrant installed by Naples City workers saved the day during the May 29, 2008, wildfire in the Estates.

When dispatchers receive a report of a fire in an area without hydrants, they will send the closest water tender unit to the scene immediately.

Golden Gate has two tenders. The districts of North Naples, Ochopee, Immokalee and Big Corkscrew each have one.

But Cunningham, of North Naples, has concerns about the ability of the districts, all facing shrinking budgets, to continue relying on tenders.

He said tenders require more manpower. Meanwhile, fire districts are trying to reduce personnel costs.

Already, the Golden Gate district has had to stop staffing one of its tenders on a 24-hour basis. Sapp said the district soon may have to cut back hours on the second one, as well.

© 2010 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Comments » 6

ajm3s writes:

Oh! how to manage a vast land mass? Have those concerned with water availability actually performed a water resource assessment. For example, have they provided a map showing accessible water both hydrant and surface water.

I guess, this story serves to stoke the fears of folks by asking the firefighters. If we are going to peddle fear, lets include the fear of arsonist plaguing the area.

Where are we to turn, go after the arsonists (not an issue on Marco Island) or show the major benefit of a water truck, because adding fire hydrants (in Golden Gate) they are too expensive.

Now is this another story by Marco Island Eagle to use its "journalistic" influence to nudge Marco Island citizens to accepting water trucks and personnel, by writing a story regarding Golden Gate with its large rural areas.

I for one believe this is the case. Consider this statement:

"Though it’s not ideal, fire officials admit that in most cases their firefighters get the job done by trucking in water."

For Golden Gate yes, and is why they have and use then; for Marco Island no. Why? Does not have land use issue. Last year, I heard Mr. Olmstead, Director of Community Services, actually state that Marco Island is an urban city. Its density and development is more in keeping with an urban environment. So much so, we have a slope requirement for gravel driveways because Mr. Murphy stated that his equipment and personnel would be jeopardized in managing an emergency both fire and health.

Does this kind of logic make it past absurdity from the head of safety on this island? Sounds like fear mongering to me.

Folks, review without fear and look at the facts, then check your pocketbook which includes Marco Island's pocketbook.

If the homeowner's were in fear, I would have anticipated that all recently constructed homes (built from 2000 on)in cul de sacs, Caxambas (i.e. those areas outside of 1000 ft) would have installed fire suppression systems within their homes, since the additional cost would pale in comparison to the total cost of a 3000ft2 home in these areas.

My suspicion is they did not. blasted, why is that, no fear by the folks. At least, no fear by those it would impact the most.

deltarome writes:

those who built those larger houses were under the impression that the city was providing needed fire protection. They pay enough taxes to assume that!

ajm3s writes:

in response to deltarome:

those who built those larger houses were under the impression that the city was providing needed fire protection. They pay enough taxes to assume that!

They are providing fire protection, its the fear that we do not need.

happyhorowitz34145 writes:

My question to the NDN is this, is this a news acticle or a poll?
Your headline reads Poll, with no question mark.
Are you (NDN) trying to start a controversy over something that exists everywhere in the country?
In rural America lack of hydrants exist, it is a part of living in the countryside. Just like living in G.G. Estates. Fire departments have been dealing with this lack of water problem for years, and have found ways of dealing with it.
With the amount of monies that the City of Marco and the County have scammed out of taxpayers and builders with so called impact fees,and utility fees,there should not be a problem, period.
Marco Islands lack of having the foresight, and poor judgement by it's so called leaders since becoming a city have led to this immediate crisis.

ajm3s writes:

in response to happyhorowitz34145:

My question to the NDN is this, is this a news acticle or a poll?
Your headline reads Poll, with no question mark.
Are you (NDN) trying to start a controversy over something that exists everywhere in the country?
In rural America lack of hydrants exist, it is a part of living in the countryside. Just like living in G.G. Estates. Fire departments have been dealing with this lack of water problem for years, and have found ways of dealing with it.
With the amount of monies that the City of Marco and the County have scammed out of taxpayers and builders with so called impact fees,and utility fees,there should not be a problem, period.
Marco Islands lack of having the foresight, and poor judgement by it's so called leaders since becoming a city have led to this immediate crisis.

Hey, I forgot about all those impact fees. Thanks, for reminding me, and remember the cost increases of these impact fees, and what do they have to show.

And I should of focused by journalistic lament to NDN, but I believe Marco Eagle is part of the family.

ajm3s writes:

in response to islandeye1#236971:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Here, check out Marco Island for 2010 (Jan thru April) for new construction permits. Check out the fees, range from $9950.75 to $48251.50 depending on whether an existing home was on the site.

http://www.cityofmarcoisland.com/Publ...

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