Bay County Emergency Services has temporarily closed its Southport fire station to repair damage from recent flooding.
"We thought that it would be wise to keep our employees out of the building and limit the amount of traffic from the public until we can address all the issues," Brad Monroe, Deputy Chief, said.
At the fire station on County Road 2321, mattresses are stacked to the ceiling, sheet rock and insulation have been removed from walls, and carpet no longer covers the floor after water flooded the station.
A septic tank that couldn't withstand Mother Nature's onslaught is blamed for the flooding. "The septic system needs to be replaced and we're waiting for the water table to go down so the contractor can get in," Monroe said.
In the meantime, the station's three full-time firefighters are keeping watch during the day and bunking at the Sand Hills fire house overnight. "We're making a conscious effort to keep the unit in this district as much as possible," Monroe said.
Monroe said fire crews from Bayou George and the Sand Hills will respond to Southport emergencies through a mutual aid agreement among fire districts. Closing the Southport station has impacted response times but delays have been minimal, he said.
"We haven't had any major issues notable and hopefully we can get the issues addressed and get the guys back in the station full time very soon," Monroe said.
Last week, Bay County was added to the list of panhandle counties qualifying for federal disaster relief but officials aren't yet sure whether those funds can be used to repair the fire station.
Monroe said two other county fire stations – Northwest Side and Hiland Park – were also damaged by flooding. Southport is the only one that is closed and county officials estimate it will take about two weeks and $20,000 to get it back in full-time service.