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Polk County pastor concerned about fire code after latest tornado

Polk Co. pastor calls for fire code changes
Posted: 6:26 PM, Nov 06, 2019
Updated: 2019-11-06 18:26:07-05
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A Polk County pastor is calling for changes to the fire code after a tornado left his congregation searching for more than a hundred thousand dollars to rebuild.

Pastor Matt Gilmore with Mt. Tabor Baptist Church is now concerned for other churches across the county.

“If there was a requirement to do the water feature just to repair my building it would probably bring an end to our church,” Pastor Gilmore said.

The church building survived, but Gilmore said he wanted to rebuild and expand the nearby food bank that was destroyed by the tornado last month.

RELATED: Tornado-ravaged Lakeland church hits roadblock rebuilding food bank

The food bank would be another building, just like a church, where people would assemble.

So, county fire officials told him—under the latest fire code—he would need a source of water in case there’s a fire, because the property was not near a fire hydrant and his cheapest option was a water tank on-site costing about $120,000.

“I’ve got a little bit of money to try to do this with, but if I didn’t have the money, I’m afraid churches are going to close, if they can’t rebuild without doing all this major water work; they’re simply going to close,” Gilmore said.

But Tony Crouse, deputy chief at Polk County Fire Rescue, said they follow the same fire code as every other county in the state.

He said every situation was different and if churches had to rebuild and meet the latest code it would not be one size fits all.

“You’d have to take every situation as it is individually. But, I think the thing to stress here is... no matter what the situation is is that, if you’re building to the modern building codes and the modern fire prevention code. the importance here is that we’re trying to just stress life safety,” Crouse said.