ETX Firefighters in water fight - - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

ETX Firefighters in water fight

By Layron Livingston - bio | email
Posted by Elizabeth Thomas – email

HOLLY LAKE, TX (KLTV) – Another East Texas Fire Department is now having to fight over water.

After 40 years of free water, The Holly Lake Volunteer Fire Department now gets a water bill every month, and that's not all.

Several of the hydrants they once used are now off limits.

With plenty of water, the Holly Lake crew helped a neighboring department put out a brush fire.

Assistant Chief Jerry Hibbs is worried that could change, "The community needs a good fire department."

"Three other water companies are in our 58 square miles and we can use their hydrants," Hibbs explained.

But not Liberty Water Company's hydrants.

There are several in the Holly Lake area. The company recently sent a letter to the volunteer fire department saying it "does not provide fire fighting capabilities at any of its Texas utility asset locations…"

Liberty Water says "Its system isn't designed to support the customers' demands and the firefighters' demands at the same time.

"No rural water company has fire hydrants stressed for firefighting purposes, so we had an agreement to only use soft hoses, and we'd only use them to fill trucks," says Hibbs.

Hibbs says his department was never charged for water at the station, either, "[But,] we are now."

Doug Black is a Liberty customer and lives just yards away from one of those black hydrants owned by Liberty.

"There's a lot of things, today, that don't make a whole lot of sense, and this is certainly one of them," says Black.

Liberty writes "The hydrants are private property…"The VFD has a lake at its disposal if they need it."

Hibbs says the lake isn't always the fastest water source in his 58-square mile coverage area.

Which brings up another issue for him and his neighbors, "If we can't use the hydrants, eventually, the insurance rates are going to go up."

Right now, the options are limited.

KLTV contacted Liberty Water's business office in Tyler. Tuesday night, the company released this statement:

Liberty Water is dedicated to providing quality water service to its customers in the Holly Ranch Resort area, near Hawkins. As defined by the Texas Water Code, public water systems service requirements do not include providing fire fighting capabilities from the potable water systems regulated by the Texas Commission on Environmental Equality (TCEQ). Therefore, our system and most other investor owned systems in the State of Texas are not designed with the capacity to provide this service without the threat to our system and our customers of having our pressure dropping below State requirements, which would mandate a water boil notice. Our priority is the ability to provide continuous and adequate drinking water service to our customers throughout Texas.

I have met with the Holly Lake Ranch Homeowner's Association and have agreed to work towards a mutually acceptable solution for all parties. A meeting with the VFD Board and the HOA Board is anticipated to be scheduled within the next couple of weeks with this goal in mind.

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