Residents outside city limits raise concern over lack of fire hydrants

Published: Jan. 19, 2023 at 8:39 PM CST
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Lake Charles, LA (KPLC) - A community just outside of Lake Charles is asking officials for help getting hydrants after a recent house fire devastated one family.

“I saw it burn down to the ground in front of me, we had seven fire trucks, and I promise they were here, they came rapidly, they were here, seven fire trucks and I have no house,” said homeowner Lisa Vaughn.

Another home burned in the Silver Lane community of Lake Charles, and in both instances no fire hydrants were readily available as a resource. Neighbor James Steward Jr. was a witness to both.

“Four years ago I watched another house burn and the trucks showed up, and they used what water they had on their trucks, and then they sat there with the homeowner and watched his house burn until more trucks could show up, yeah, I witnessed that too, four in the morning,” Steward said.

Homeowner Hubert Riggs said he was putting his kids to bed when he noticed smoke in an area of the home, and when he opened the door, flames were up in the air. The apparent cause was an electric spark.

“Immediately I tried to put it out at first, but it was too much for me to handle, so I notified my family to call 911 and got them out the house,” Riggs said.

“When they got here, they could not immediately start fighting this fire. They had to start fighting the fire that had started on my neighbor’s house to the south, in the meantime that leaves nobody to fight this fire,” Steward said.

Lake Charles Fire Chief Delton Carter said they arrived on the scene with at least 1,500 gallons of water. There is a protocol they are trained to follow, which they did.

“You follow your training that tells you, if life is not the problem, then you protect your exposures and continue to fight the fire,” Carter said.

Protect your exposures means to protect the surrounding homes from burning as well.

Now the community is looking for answers, before someone else’s family becomes a victim in the District 7 community.

“First of all, I want this issue to get put back on the police juror meeting’s agenda, and have some conversations about it and maybe get a plan proposed again to get this done,” Steward said.

“We’re called people outside the city limits but were citizens of Lake Charles. We should get the same respect and the same help as the people who are in the city; the basic necessities and a fire hydrant is one of them,” Vaughn said.

“The citizens of Lake Charles pay a tax for municipal water, so we typically service the people inside the corporate limits unless somebody wants to pay for additional water lines and fire hydrants outside the city limits,” City Administrator John Cardone said.

Cardone explained how the community can address the problem.

“They can go to the water department, typically it would be the director of utilities, and they can make a request for an extension of utilities, or the planning department. Any one of those avenues will help get them on the books. What we would do is give them an estimate of what it would cost for it to be extended.”

District 7 Police Juror and CPPJ President Chris Landry did not want to speak on camera. Parish officials said they are open to assist with the needs of the community, but there are infrastructure issues and it could take up to five years.