Fire protection for peninsula will be slow, HI chief warns

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

HOLIDAY ISLAND -- The Holiday Island Rural Fire District (HIRFD) will have to provide fire protection to a new 274-acre development at the northern boundary of Arkansas, called Oaks Landing.

The only trouble is, the development is on a peninsula across Table Rock Lake and 15 miles from the nearest Holiday Island fire station by highway.

Monday, in the latest of several meetings over the last year to hash out the details of fire protection, Carroll County Judge Richard Williams acknowledged Oaks Landing is within the Holiday Island rural fire district. But Fire Chief Jack Deaton said it will take at least an hour to respond to a fire because of the distance.

Earlier progress with the Eagle Rock, Mo., Fire Department to provide service by way of mutual aid agreement became stymied when that department demanded Oaks Landing provide a lot, a new fire station, equipment and new fire trucks.

"They wanted the moon," said Vaughn Knight of Knight Law Firm in Fayetteville, Ark., representing Southern Land Partners, the Oaks Landing owners.

But Deaton indicated that to provide proper service, Oaks Landing may have to come up with everything short of the fire trucks being brand new: a fire station to house used trucks and equipment, with a six-inch concrete floor to support their weight; equipment; a drilled water well; and at least a rapid response truck that can hold 300 gallons.

The whole proposition is costly, even without the fire station, in the range of $100,000 to $200,000.

And that's only the equipment. Getting firefighters to the scene will also take time unless a way can be found to ferry them across the lake to a suitable landing spot. The Holiday Island rescue boat can only carry two passengers and a driver.

Williams also pointed out the development needs to improve roads and cul-de-sacs to accommodate fire trucks.

"I'm not trying to get out of providing service, and that statutes say we have to provide service, but we also have to send a letter with it saying it will be 45 minutes to an hour before we can get there, and things might burn down," Deaton said.

Also at issue is ambulance service and law enforcement. Times and distances are even greater, as paramedic ambulances are provided by Eureka Springs, which often takes 10 to 15 minutes just to reach Holiday Island, said Eureka Springs interim fire chief Eddie Davis.

Sheriff Bob Grudek noted Arkansas law enforcement cannot transport suspects through another state, and part of Oaks Landing goes through Missouri.

Williams said a letter will be sent to the development acknowledging the county will provide fire response but that response might be an hour or more under normal conditions.

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