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Crews battle house fire in Estero, without fire hydrant

Posted at 8:07 AM, May 24, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-24 18:48:30-04

ESTERO, Fla. — Monday morning got off to a fiery start.

John Loukonen was getting his son ready for school just before 7:00 a.m., when he heard a disturbing noise near his Tanglewood Lane home.

“I heard this crackle. It was just crackling. I thought, that sounds like a fire. So, I came around the bushes and saw the flames were probably 20-30 feet in the sky,” he said.

He told his wife to call 9-1-1, and said within minutes he witnessed Estero Fire Rescue and San Carlos Park Fire Protection put out a fire that consumed his neighbor’s shed.

Fire crews said flames reached the northeast corner of the home on the property, but they were able to stop the fire before it consumed it. They did it all without a fire hydrant in sight. EFR’s Assistant Fire Chief Mark Wahlig said instead, they used water from the truck and a long run of fire hoses.

“What we dropped today was a little over 2,000 feet. That’s only 2 or three trucks worth of hose. We still had more hose available to us if we needed it,” he said.

He said that was fine for the size of this fire, but if it was any bigger they’d need backup.

“We’re going to need much more water. If we don’t have hydrants in the area, we can use a water tender, which is another fire truck, and it carries 3,000 gallons of water,” he said.

The nearest hydrant is a quarter mile away from this home, on Broadway Avenue. There are only a few others spread out in surrounding neighborhoods.

But, Loukonen wants to keep it the way it is, fearing he’ll have to front the bill as a homeowner.

“I think if you’ve got trucks that can respond quickly, with some reserve of water in it, it should be alright,” he said.

Wahlig said EFR will determine where fire hydrants go on new builds, but not for existing properties.

“In the old retro, that’s up to local governments to take care of,” he said.

According to Lee County Utilities, if you live in unincorporated Lee County, there are steps you can take to add a fire hydrant in your area. But, the layout of your neighborhood has to meet certain requirements. It’s for properties built after 1983, since older ones may be connected to private wells and septic tanks. You can find out more information here.