Con: Fire official: A fire hydrant on every corner would be financially irresponsible

Bianca Montes By Bianca Montes

Feb. 16, 2014 at 4:04 p.m.
Updated Feb. 15, 2014 at 8:16 p.m.

A fire hydrant system in the county is not only unneeded but is also a cost Victoria County cannot afford, said County Fire Marshal Ronald Pray.

There are 33 different sources of water in the county, from a 24,000-gallon tank on San Antonio River Road to a few hydrants off U.S. Highway 77 in the Quail Creek subdivision, Bloomington and Placedo.

"The county has done a lot of great things to make sure we can fight a fire," Pray said. "We continue to strive to make sure there is a water supply."

Pray said some areas need improvement because there are always areas that need improvements.

"I'd love to have a hydrant in every neighborhood," Pray said. "But it's fiscally irresponsible when you don't have the need."

Plus, he said it would drive up taxes to cover the costs.

"We couldn't afford it. Taxes would be insane. The people couldn't do it," Pray said.

Victoria Fire Department Chief Taner Drake said in 2013, the city responded to 1,706 emergency calls in the county. The number includes both medical and fire emergency calls.

The fire department has not released the numbers separately since 2010.

In 2010, the city fire department responded to 129 fires in the county, according to a year-end report.

The city doesn't report an averaged response time for county calls.

"There is no way," Drake said. "We already have a challenge meeting our response time goals in the city. There is no way to control them in the county because of distance."

What his department can control, he said, is the amount of time it takes for a firefighter to get on the road.

That, Drake said, is one minute.

In January, it took the fire department 13 minutes to respond to a house fire on the corner of Mexico and River roads. The fire spread rapidly in the home because of wind, Drake said. A tanker as well as two fire trucks were called to the scene.

A tanker holds about 2,000 gallons of water.

The fire trucks hold about 500 gallons.

Victoria owns one tanker, and it's housed at the Salem Road fire station, about 10 miles away from Mexico and River roads.

"When they move out there (in the county), they know their fire service is limited," Drake said. "Which makes it a challenge for us because of the county's size - it's huge."

The county is 890 square miles.

Wade Meik, 29, of Victoria, moved his family to the county more than a year ago. He said the lack of fire hydrants did not factor into his decision to move.

Having more land and fewer taxes was a fair trade-off, he said. Although he can see the pros of having a fire station nearby or a fire hydrant on his street, he said he doesn't think he'll ever move back to the city.

"Increased safety and the availability of emergency services is a pro," he said. "But I think when you move out here (to the county), you don't expect the same treatments as you would get in the city."

Simply put, Pray said the county doesn't have the water capability to put a hydrant system in.

"There are no water lines that run through," he said.

And, with the exception of a few areas, he said, homes are built few and far between.

"If I build a house on 40 acres of land, and my next neighbor is 2 miles away, will it do me any good to have a hydrant system?" Pray asked.

Logistically, for the county, it's just not possible, Pray said. "You're talking about a lot of money, and the risk doesn't outweigh the benefit."

There are 11 volunteer fire departments throughout the county that respond to county fires along with the city, but those volunteers are not sitting at the fire stations waiting for a fire like the city is, he said.

"We could not do it without (the volunteers); they are essential to providing fire protection to the county," Pray said. "If people want to do things to improve fire protection in their area of the county, they need to support their local volunteer fire department."

Related story:

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