BAY COUNTY, Fla. (WMBB) — Lightning strikes ignited fires at two houses in College Point Tuesday, destroying both. Fire also destroyed a third home in the same area back in November.
In each case, bystanders wondered why firefighters had no access to nearby fire hydrants.
“Bay County doesn’t have water and sewer utility services in the College Point area, our utility lines end just before you get out into that area,” Bay County Communications Director Valerie Sale said. “So the folks who live out there actually are on septic and well services and so we don’t offer water and sewer lines and without water lines, you don’t have fire hydrants.”
College Point is in an unincorporated Bay County area.
“You have a different level of service, you also pay a different level of taxes and so folks who live inside the city limits of the municipality or are going to be paying fire taxes and special assessments for fire or a higher millage rate,” Sale said.
This same issue arose in 2010.
“So we examined the possibility of an assessment on the properties out there and basically that means that the folks who live in that area would fund the extension of the utilities out there via an assessment on their properties and they would pay for it that way through an MSBU (Municipal Services Benefit Unit),” Sale said.
The cost would have been a little more than $6 million at the time.
“About $25,000 per property owner back then, so, it was considered by the property owners at that time and we had a couple of public meetings back then and they opted not to pursue that,” Sale said.
County utility workers were back in the area Wednesday.
“We’re looking at what would be required to extend those lines out there, maybe there is an opportunity to secure some funding,” Sale said. “We want to work with the community there and do what we can to help them.”
While hydrants are crucial for firefighters to do their jobs, they said Wednesday’s fires still would have destroyed the homes, because they started in the attics.