Lack of fire hydrants threatens Laguna Heights homes

Just a few charred pictures survived the fire that completely destroyed Ernestina Martinez's home on Madison Street Wednesday, in Laguna Heights.

She had been living here since 1958 and raised her eight children at the home.

Cameron County Fire Marshal Armando Lucio said the neighboring home caught fire, and it quickly spread to Martinez's home.

Fire investigators have not determined what sparked the fire.

According to Martinez, the home has no running water or light and was attracting unsafe activity. She adds she had warned county officials about the abandoned home.

(It TMs) your whole life there, and then, you know, in a second (it TMs gone), Martinez said. I told the constables this could've been avoided if they had listened to us."

Constable Horacio Zamora was aware of the concerns regarding the home and said deputies routinely patrolled the area.

He too had reported the problems to the county.

"We had taken steps to prevent what happened last night, Zamora said. But I had predicted that was going to happen because the person that had been living there continuously burned some kind of fire,"

Martinez said not having working hydrants in Laguna heights adds to her frustration and added to the loss of her property. Firefighters had to travel to Port Isabel High School and haul back water to put out the fire.

"They need to fix those fire hydrants and look around because there's a lot of trailers, (where there TMs illegal activity) and they don TMt do anything."

Cameron County Emergency Manager Humberto Barrera said the county does not have its own fire department, but contracts with cities to respond to fires in the county. He adds the county does not own or maintain fire hydrants.

That is not just in Laguna Heights, throughout the county you're going to find a lot of fire hydrants that don TMt work, Barrera said. Again those are put-in there by developers and people selling lots, those are not put in there by the county "

Action 4 News spoke to officials at the Laguna Madre Water District about their role with the hydrants.

General Manager Gavino Sotelo said the company is required to provide the appropriate size pipes for fire hydrants to operate, but not the fire service.

There's been some other incidents out there where people have lost their homes, Sotelo said. They seem to think that we are the ones responsible for the fire hydrants, - we are not. Each respective community provides their own fire protection services.

Martinez said she just hopes county officials quit passing the ball on the issue before another tragedy strikes and more homes are ruined.

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