BASTROP, Texas - The fire that gutted a wood framed home in Paige started early Tuesday morning.
The call for help came from two women who were driving by.
“When we first got here it was just confined to one room, it was the first corner here, and when a first responder got here and opened up a window, it expanded from there,” said Theresa Champagne.
The intensity of the fire forced Champagne and her friend back to the road. More of the home could have been saved according to the Paige VFD Chief Jay Schwartz, except for the lack of one thing .
“Water, water supply," said Schwartz.
There are only a few fire hydrants in Paige. One is located across the street from the house, but none are fully operational. The Chief said they’ve tried to get new hydrants put in.
“We’ve offered them, to pay for the hydrants, we’ve offered to pay for the install, we’ve offered to pay for the yearly service that it requires and they’ve said not,” said Chief Schwartz.
The utility that provides water to Paige is located in Giddings. The entire system for the Lee County Water Supply Corporation uses pipes design strictly for drinking water. Wade Dane, the Assistant Manager for the utility, told FOX-7 Austin if a fire truck hooked up to a hydrant and started pulling water out of one of the pipes, it could collapse.
“And then we’d have more people out of water ... and no water in that area at all for firefighting or otherwise,” said Dane.
The hydrants were installed years ago by a different utility according to Dane. They eventually took over that utility, and the hydrant problem, in the late 90’s.
“I call them glorified flush valves, because our infrastructure in that area does not support fire hydrants,” said Dane.
All this comes as a surprise to Andrew Escamilla who lost everything he owned in the fire.
“Now, I’m just now learning this, today?” said Escamilla.
The hydrant next to his home provided a false sense of security.
“If that wasn’t working two years ago why didn’t they remove that just take it out completely it sitting there like it’s a dummy,” said Escamilla.
The utility allows fire fighters to hook up hoses to the remaining hydrants and flow vale’s without damaging the system. To help increase the water supply, a large tank was built by the fire department with a supply line installed by the utility.
A stronger water line could also be installed, but the cost of doing that kind of project may require a substantial rate hike. Several residents say they plan to go to the next utility board meeting to help improve fire protection.