Cary, N.C. — 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.