Hurricane shutters slow down firefighters in Riviera Beach

RIVIERA BEACH, Fla. - A Wednesday afternoon house fire in Riviera Beach served as a reminder to take down hurricane shutters and any plywood boards covering windows.

It took every firefighter the Riviera Beach Fire Department had working to combat the flames that scorched the inside of the home on West 27th Street. No people were inside, but crews had to rescue the owner's cat and give oxygen to his dog.

The man who owns the home said he had plywood covering the windows as hurricane protection. Firefighters say it slowed them down.

"It takes a few minutes longer to get those boards off," said Riviera Beach Fire Rescue spokesman DaWayne Watson.

Watson says boards and shutters also keep fires from ventilating, making fighting the fire inside even worse.

"It builds the heat up," Watson said. "The heat has really nowhere to escape."

Watson said too many homes still have hurricane protection up six weeks after Matthew, as hurricane season comes to a close.

"Take those boards down immediately," he said. "In the event someone was trapped inside the house, those few minutes that it takes for us to cut those boards off can make the difference between life and death."

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