Local News

Many Wake Neighborhoods Lack Fire Hydrants

Posted July 31, 2007

— A multimillion-dollar home that burned to the ground overnight Friday was only one among many houses without adequate fire protection in Wake County.

A majority of homes in unincorporated areas of Wake County do not receive municipal water services, including fire hydrants.

Wells and other alternative types of water systems often do not create enough pressure on which to run hydrants, said firefighters.

Fire officials told WRAL that they have been pushing for a county-wide water system, but have not been able to create much momentum toward installing such a system in the past.

Despite such limitations, fire departments do have ways of fighting blazes that strike homes, and crews responding to the fire at 3405 Birk Bluff Court used those methods Friday night.

Lightning struck the house, and neighbors noticed flames and called for help nearly 30 minutes after the fire started, said fire officials.

Crews arriving on the scene found an additional problem at the home, located in the Birkland subdivision, just outside eastern Cary.

"There aren't any fire hydrants on that street or in that subdivision," said Sam Griggs, deputy chief of the Swift Creek Fire Department.

Crews set up a dump tank and used 12 tankers to transport water from two fire hydrants, both around a mile away. In five hours, the crews shuttled more than 200,000 gallons of water.

"It would certainly aid the fire department in some of our jobs if we didn't have to add the extra task of shuttling water," said Griggs.

Volunteers receive extensive training, and a crew can set up a dump tank in about five minutes, said fire officials.

That job, though, requires a lot of manpower and is logistically difficult, said fire department officials. Twelve fire departments were required to put out the Birkland fire, said officials.

The experience of the fire also prompted neighbors to take preventative action.

"We went out and got fire extinguishers for the house in case something did start, because it's something I hadn't really thought much about," said neighbor Tripp Loyd.

The Merchant family, whose house burned down Friday, was not home at the time of the fire, because the parents were visiting their daughter, who was being treated at the intensive care unit, said Jim Merchant, the homeowner.

Members of the Merchant family also came close to tragedy in the pedestrian bridge collapse at Lowe's Motor Speedway in 2000. More than 100 people were hurt when the walkway fell 25 feet onto a highway.

Family members declined to give information about the daughter's condition.


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  • JennyT Jul 31, 2007

    WakeEastSide - "Its called being proactive and progressive."

    Wake County wouldn't know proactive or progressive if it bit them in the .....

  • SubwayScoundrel Jul 31, 2007

    So the developer who sold you the big McMansion forgot to mention anything about fire hydrants or the lack of. He talked about the big kitchen, low taxes, no need to pay the city of Raleigh and how the siding will last 50 years.

    Nothing is free and buyer beware. Sorry for the families this effects but all of sudden living in the city looks inviting to the people who keep moving out and complain about the city and taxes.

  • DontLikeTheSocialistObama Jul 31, 2007

    It's simple, if you want fire hydrants close to your house. Live in a City like Raleigh and pay more in taxes. Most of those who live in areas without fire hydrants, pay less in taxes and live there so they don't have to pay higher taxes.

  • speedy Jul 31, 2007

    Fireman said it all.

    Mr. Evans, just when did you move south?

  • TheyCallMeTheFireman Jul 31, 2007

    WRAL made this story out to be about a lack of hydrants in rural Wake County, but that is not the point I see here. It is still about the amount of time it took for someone to see the fire and call it in. The fact that they shuttled 200,000 gallons of water to one house should tell you that it was a fully involved structure fire on arrival. Your house can be surrounded by hydrants, to the point you trip over them every time you walk outside, but if no one calls the fire department to come and get water out of them fast enough, your house will still burn to the ground.

  • Brick Tamland Jul 31, 2007

    I'm glad I have a hydrant right across the street from my $150K home.

  • Slip Kid Jul 31, 2007

    MR EVANS - You can have more of one and less of the other. For more of both, it's going to cost!

  • fatty Jul 31, 2007

    I lived in a neighborhood out in the country when I was twelve. We didn't have fire hydrants. Our house burned to the ground. Ever since then I've always made a mental note of whether there is a fire hydrant near any place I was planning to live--even when I was a renter in college. A nearby fire hydrant is on my short list of requirements when I go house hunting. I can't believe it is not on everyone's list.

  • MR EVANS Jul 31, 2007

    Great Planning- Few Schools and No Fire Hydrants

  • Slip Kid Jul 31, 2007

    "Until you, the citizen gets involved nothing will be done." - WakeEastSide

    Why does anything have to be done? Do you think getting fire hydrants on every road everywhere is a high priority for all citizens? I think not. Whether you build a cheap or expensive house anywhere, it's your responsibility to understand the risks associated with fire safety and response, as well as any of many variables around the community you choose. I Think this and similar statements show this 'assumed' group responsibiity for making everybody's quality of life 'equal'. Well, equal is not fair and fair is not equal. Understanding reality is all that is needed.