Residents want better fire protection

The Palmdale Cracker Store fire highlighted the need for better fire protection in that portion of Glades County during discussion at the Glades County Commission meeting on Oct. 24.

Several residents attended the county meeting Monday, night to voice concerns.

The historic structure was a total loss after the fire on Oct. 21. Moore Haven, Ortona, Buckhead Ridge, Lakeport, Clewiston, LaBelle and Lake Placid firemen were among those on the scene to put out the blaze. The first crews reported flames coming from the second floor when they arrived.

County Fire Chief Bob Jones said the cause was undetermined and the State Fire Marshall is investigating.

Palmdale resident Jerry Sapp said the community has suffered a tragic loss.

“Almost 100 years of history is gone,” he said. “The people are really saddened. No one can feel the loss of the Taylors and the investment they have in the store.”

Mr. Sapp said the Palmdale fire department must be revitalized. He doubted whether any number of firemen could have put that fire out.

Glades County reported problems with recruitment of volunteers. Part of that is state training requirements.

“Every time the fire alarm for Palmdale rings, I cringe,” Chief Jones said, “We have classes in Hendry County for firemen.”

Over 206 hours of training are required. Nobody from Palmdale has taken this class.

Ray Hendry said Palmdale should have a water tanker and be allowed to be first responders. A 40 hour class is available for forestry trainers where volunteers can fight fires but not enter buildings.

County officials said the first firemen got to the scene in 14 minutes on Friday. Neal Chapman, Training officer for Glades County Fire Rescue, said everyone wishes this fire didn’t occur.
“That fire was a tragedy, it was a 14 minute response time and you saw how fast it went up,” he added.

A meeting will be held between interested Palmdale firemen and the county fire and EMS administration to create training courses for first aid and forestry work.

Marcia Taylor, owner of the store, said the fire started in the second floor. She suggested that they could have put the fire out if they had been allowed to.

“I don’t know why nobody could put water on it. It was just a small fire, when we got there,” she told commissioners.

Mr. Chapman said it is legal to pour water on a fire but it is not legal to enter the building.

Mrs. Taylor disputed the amount of time for a fire truck to arrive. She said no firemen entered the building.

“If something like this happens to me, it will happen to my neighbor later, and I don’t want to see that happen,” she said.

She claimed a 45 minute response time before the first fire truck arrived, which Fire/Rescue disputed.

She said the fire trucks quickly ran out of water and had to return to Fisheating Creek to get more water.

“By that time the building was gone,” she added.

She said Palmdale itself will get a fire truck no matter what the county decides. Commissioner Donna Storter-Long said no business will move to a community without a fire department.

In other business, Marty Peate, consultant hired by the Florida Department of Transportation, gave an update on the State Route 29 corridor study. It is 15.1 miles long between Cowboy Way in LaBelle to U.S. 27.

A public workshop is scheduled for Nov. 3 at the LaBelle Civic Center from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. A public hearing is also planned next spring.

A study found the immediate need of extra capacity is in and near LaBelle. SR 29 from CR 80A to CR 731 Whidden Road would be improved and expanded to four lanes.

A new draw bridge would be constructed on Bridge Street. Enhanced sidewalks and bike trails would be added.

A website with info on the project is www.SR29LaBelle.com

In other business actions, the board approved a holiday luncheon for county, city and school employees on Dec. 13. Cracker Cookin & Caterin submitted a bid of $2,653. Curbside Treats provided a bid of just over $1,680. Commissioners accepted the lower bid.

Unlimited Restoration was awarded a $327,616 bid to demolish the Glades Inn. A fire demolished the closed motel in March just after the county agreed to sell it.

Glades County began discussions on regulations for marijuana dispensing facilities. One business would be allowed in the county. Hours allowed are between 8 a.m. until 11 p.m.

Commissioner Paul Beck said he would like regulations to lead them out the door.

Planner Inga Williams said the county must allow one facility but can regulate it under Florida law. Commercial general zoning would be required.

County Manager Paul Carlisle said states normally allow medical marijuana and then recreational marijuana.

“In two years it is going to be for fun,” Commissioner Storter-Long said. She supported additional regulations. The county unanimously approved the cannabis dispensing business ordinance. One resident asked a question about where the facility would be allowed and didn’t’ want it in a residential area.

The ordinance would include a 1,500 feet buffer between various public facilities like parks, schools and churches and the marijuana sales.

Approved a contract with Healthy Start of Southwest Florida to begin providing services to Glades County mothers.

The Lakeport Garden Club Annual boat parade was set for Dec. 3 at Harney Pond. The price for admission is a toy donation. The county closed the boat ramp at 4 p.m.

Glades County will apply for a sewer project grant for Washington Park. Construction on the Loves Travel Center is set to begin Nov. 1.

Special to Glades County Democrat

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