Firefighters: Disney parking lot fire could have been put out sooner if hydrants weren't removed

BAY LAKE, Fla. — Four cars were destroyed and four others were burned in a fire in a parking lot at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom in March.

Channel 9 on Monday obtained recordings of radio transmissions that prove the concerns that firefighters had when they couldn't find a water source.

The firefighters said they worked with emergency dispatchers for more than 30 minutes that day to locate a hydrant, but they never found one, because Disney had moved the hydrant during construction.

Firefighters said they didn't know that, and their aging tanker was out of service that day. The combination allowed a fire in a single car fire to grow.

While eight families spent the day at the theme park, their cars burned in the parking lot.

"The vehicle is now -- according to the caller -- fully involved," an emergency dispatcher said in the radio transmission.

A lime green Dodge Charger caught fire in the Mulan section of the parking lot in March.

"Engine 21 to Rescue 31: Do you have a visual on this hydrant?" a firefighter said in a radio transmission.

"No, sir. I came in the side gate there off Floridian Way, and I have yet to see a fire hydrant," a firefighter said.

Several Reedy Creek firefighters told Channel 9 that they likely could have contained the flames to one or two cars, but they couldn't find water.

"We do not have a visual on a fire hydrant at this time," a firefighter said in a radio transmission.

Disney removed fire hydrants during construction, an emergency dispatcher said in a radio transmission.

"I need a hydrant," a dispatcher said. "I need you to find a hydrant."

Reedy Creek Professional Firefighters, a firefighter union, said Disney never notified Reedy Creek firefighters that the fire hydrants had been removed.

"The problem here is that since Walt Disney World is a multibillion-dollar corporation and they own their own government, they basically tell us what they're going to do," union president Tim Stromsnes said.

Stromsnes said the first engine to arrive at the scene had some water aboard, but it quickly ran out.

Orange County Fire Rescue brought a tanker more than 30 minutes later, because the closest hydrant was out of reach -- more than 2,000 feet away.

"We were stretched to the max," Stromsnes said. "Now, think if there was another incident. How would we have been able to handle that?"

Disney told Channel 9 the fire hydrants were removed in 2015 during demolition of the Richard Petty Driving Experience. It said it is now ensuring firefighters have the accurate information they need about the locations of hydrants.

The company also said the EPCOT building code doesn't require it to have fire hydrants in parking lots and that it provided the affected visitors with alternative transportation.

Reedy Creek District Administrator John Classe said the fire marshal doesn't plan to cite Disney because the fire hydrants were "permitted for removal as part of demolition associated with the former Disney Speedway facilities."

Classe said there is no permit violation or citation.