Fire Hydrant Shortage Could Endanger Lee County Residents

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Tapping into the water supply is critical for fighting fires, and some Cape Coral residents are up in arms about the coverage of the city’s hydrant system.

Fire hydrants offer the fire department a direct link to the underground water supply, and are designed for quick hookup to its trucks and hoses. An enormous part of Cape Coral is without these water supplies, forcing firemen to rely on the water onboard their trucks or take time and draw it from the city’s canals, according to NBC-2.

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Sometimes, that extra time can make a big difference.

In late November, one family lost their home to a blaze for just this reason. The hydrants, which take three minutes to hook up, are much more efficient than the canals, which can take up to eight minutes to draw from through a process called TurboDrafting.

The Cape Coral home that burned down did not have a hydrant nearby, and the extra time it took to draw water from the canal allowed the blaze to grow stronger. “Every 30 seconds a fire doubles in size,” Cape Coral’s fire division chief told NBC-2, meaning every second counts when fighting a fire.

The city follows several widespread methods for stopping fires, including active and passive protection, plus fire prevention education. Here are some ways the city can stop fires, and what you can do in case you encounter one.

What is Active Fire Protection?

Fire hydrants are part of a larger practice called active fire protection, which the National Institute of Standards and Technology defines as things like fire hydrants, automatic sprinklers, fire alarms, smoke detectors, and more. If it requires motion to start or access, like opening a fire hydrant, it’s an active method.

Active fire protection is critical to stopping a fire. It can eliminate the inferno or at least keep it at bay until the fire department arrives. The difference between tapping a hydrant and drawing from the canal can thus be the difference in keeping your house standing.

With the problem of fire hydrants in mind, there are some things you can do to protect your home so the fire department’s job is much easier, or even prevent a fire entirely.

The First Line of Defense Against Fire

Most people think of fire hydrants and sprinklers when they think fire prevention, but these are actually a building’s last line of defense. The first is how it’s been designed.

Passive fire protection improves a structure by using materials that are fire-safe, reducing a fire’s ability to spread, cause damage, and provides the added benefit of improved building stability, according to several codes from the National Fire Protection Association.

Some of the building methods that can make a house more fire resistant include installing fireproof spray, constructing with fire-resistant walls and floors, and using other methods to contain or prevent a fire.

However, that will not prevent a fire from starting in the first place.

Fire prevention primarily involves educating people about how fires are started, so an outbreak and its subsequent danger can be avoided entirely.

The City of Fort Myers recommends several safety tips to lessen the danger. Properly installing smoke detectors and space heaters, plus using cooking and other electrical tech responsibly, can reduce the risk of fire. Having a plan of escape, and knowing how to avoid smoke or snuff out fires on your clothing can also help.

Still, fires can occur even under the best of circumstances, and more fire hydrants will improve the safety of you and your belongings.

You Need These Protections Now More Than Ever

Many fire hydrants are set to be installed through 2020 to accommodate Cape Coral’s growing population, but that might be too late for some residents. Fort Myers requires hydrant spacing not exceed 300 feet, meaning unlike Cape Coral it is fairly well-equipped to deal with house fires. However, the city is experiencing rapid growth, and there are fears that it could develop a fire hydrant shortage similar to Cape Coral.

Still, comprehensive fire protection from your city might not be enough keep you or your belongings safe. In such an event you hope that your insurance company will honor their agreement with you and compensate you for the damage. If they do not, it may be time to contact an attorney to see what they can do for you.

By Staff