I-TEAM: Fire hydrants hard to come by in rural Nassau County

There's no rule in place requiring hydrants in neighborhoods

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CALLAHAN, Fla. – There was no fire hydrant in sight when a Callahan home went up in flames Monday. It took 11 minutes for firefighters to arrive and another 45 minutes for them to bring the fire under control.

Even though no one was hurt, except for a dog that suffered minor injuries, the home on Yellow Jacket Drive was completely gutted.

Nassau County Fire Chief Brady Rigdon said the lack of hydrant access is not unusual in rural parts of the county. As a result, families tend to rely on wells and septic tanks in lieu of waterlines. 

"Our people know where the hydrants are and where they are not," Rigdon said of the hydrants, the vast majority of which are positioned along State Road 200 and in densely populated areas.

I-TEAM reporter Jim Piggott did some digging and found there is no rule requiring hydrants in neighborhoods. While hydrants may be mandatory when it comes building permits issued for schools and businesses, that's not the case for homes.

That means firefighters depend on water tankers.

In Nassau County's case, there simply aren't many to go around. The county fire department has one tanker in its fleet, plus two more from volunteer fire departments at its disposal.

But more help could soon be on the way. Rigdon said county commissioners have approved a second tanker that he hopes will be ready to go into service by the end of the year.

Homeowners living in the area who spoke with News4Jax Tuesday said they're not surprised there is no rule or regulation requiring fire hydrants in neighborhoods.

"That is the trade-off you get for living in the country," said neighbor Glenda Stonecipher. "You just don't get services like that."

Incidentally, a problem with the pool pump may have been to blame for the fire. A spokesperson for the State Fire Marshal's Office said investigators believe it started there and spread to the attic.

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