GEORGETOWN COUNTY, SC (WCSC) - Georgetown County's fire department says a lack of hydrants makes fighting some fires a lost cause.
"If you can't get the wet stuff on the fire, you're not going to be able to put it out," Mack Reed, Georgetown County's fire chief said.
Reed said the department sometimes has to travel more than 15 miles to the nearest hydrant and some areas, like Lambert, don't have hydrants at all.
"The trucks carry about 1,000 gallons of water, the pumpers, and it pumps 250 gallons a minute," Reed said. "So after about five minutes, we're out of water with the first truck. Then you go back to the fill site, come back and put some more water in the truck."
Sometimes, the hydrants aren't much faster than faucets, making it even more difficult to put out the fires quickly.
"Depending on the amount of volume you're getting out of that hydrant, you can sit there 10 or 15 minutes waiting to fill your truck up," Reed said.
Fire departments have an Insurance Services Office (ISO) rating based on how close fire hydrants are to homes and businesses and how well its staff is trained among other things. One is the best, and 10 is the worst. The difference in ratings could mean a difference of thousands of dollars in insurance costs.
A recent fire in Williamsburg County that killed D'Asia Williams was in an area rated a 9, with the nearest hydrant almost a mile away. Georgetown County is rated a 4 for homes within five miles of a fire station and 1,000 feet of a hydrant, and a 9 for homes more than 1,000 feet from a hydrant.
"I wish we could have a hydrant every 100 feet away from every house but the true nature of it is it's going to be too expensive," Reed said. "I don't think it'll ever happen."
The local water companies are responsible for the number of hydrants, but Reed said that's not their top priority.
"Their main function is to deliver drinking water," Reed said. "They're really not into fire protection in the rural areas, so when you cut that money back for a hydrant that's water that's not getting to someone else."
Reed's best advice for people who live in rural areas is to call for help as soon as possible.
"The quicker you let us know, the quicker we can get there and the quicker we can do something about it," Reed said.
Berkeley County has a list of its fire station's ISO ratings.
The City of Charleston's ISO rating was moved from a 1 to a 3 in 2008.