A house in the Seabrook Point neighborhood, and the dogs inside, were lost in a fire in May. It is the second house lost in the community, firefighters say because there are no fire hydrants. But how could that be?
“They came, started spraying water on it… And then I heard ‘Oh we’re out of water…,” said homeowner Helen Rivers, “Excuse me?! You’re out of water?! What’s the matter, we’re on the river!” she said.
It didn’t matter because the river at low tide is too shallow for a boat and the nearest fire hydrants are at the Whale Branch schools more than two miles away.
“The Burton Fire District is 110% fully supportive of putting hydrants in that neighborhood,” said Dan Bryne with the Burton Fire District, “But it’s not the fire department’s responsibility. We don’t have the money, it’s not in our budget.”
Beaufort Jasper Water and Sewer Authority (BJWSA) as well as the county say it’s not in their budget either.
“That could be tens of millions of dollars to run a waterline out to that community, and so the county’s not going to pay for that because we’re not gonna be able to run waterlines to every portion of the county, that’s just, it’s not practical,” said Interim County Administrator Josh Gruber.
Gruber said houses built decades ago weren’t required to have hydrants and it’s not in the current codes for rural areas.
“When people build a home or move into a neighborhood, they know whether or not they have a fire hydrant available to them. So, I don’t believe it’s up to the county to dictate to somebody what they should or should not have. You know, they have to have personal responsibility about what they’re going to have in their community,” he said.
BJWSA told News Three installing hydrants in Seabrook Point would cost residents about a million dollars, a project the water company says residents asked about after the first fire in 2014, but never funded.
“There are alternatives to having water lines, so they can have dry fire hydrants and other things,” Gruber said, “But it’s up to the community itself to determine whether or not they want to have that.”
Since the fire in May, residents are looking into installing a dry fire hydrant, which would be much cheaper and pull water from their storm water pond.