Gainesville City Officials Warn Expanding Sinkhole Poses Immediate Danger to Onlookers, First Responders
Press release from City of Gainesville
Gainesville city officials warn the sinkhole in northwest Gainesville continues to expand and poses an immediate danger to onlookers who venture near the formation. For the safety of all neighbors and first responders, everyone is advised to keep away from the area. The City’s Public Works department installed a six-foot chain link fence around the formation yesterday in an effort to help homeowners near the sinkhole keep spectators off their private property. Gainesville Police Department officers continue to actively patrol the area, and an officer has been stationed near the formation 24/7 to keep onlookers away.
“Individuals who disregard these safety measures directly place their own lives at risk as well as the lives of our first responders,” said Gainesville City Manager Lee Feldman. “We’re asking everyone to stay away and to keep children away from the sinkhole. An accident likely could mean a recovery effort rather than a rescue effort,” he said.
Geological experts who are assessing the sinkhole cannot predict when it will stabilize. Out of an abundance of caution, Gainesville Fire Rescue (GFR) has installed ground pads near the sinkhole in the event an emergency rescue or recovery operation becomes necessary.
“This sinkhole and the land around it are unstable. For your own safety and that of your loved ones, avoid the area. It is unsafe,” said GFR Interim Fire Chief Joanne Rice.
Since its discovery earlier this month, the sinkhole continues to grow and measures approximately 90 feet across at its widest point. Its depth changes as rainwater accumulates at the bottom, and the vertical sides of the sinkhole continue to collapse into the base. City officials have been contacting homeowners in the area to help obtain rights of way access so experts have lawful access to private property, and they have been sharing information with homeowners via email from those involved in the multi-agency response.
City building inspectors and code enforcement officers are onsite twice daily to assess any progressing structural damage and answer homeowners’ questions about the structural integrity of their homes. In addition, the City’s Risk Management team is helping area homeowners navigate liability concerns and better understand their property rights. An injury sustained by a trespasser could result in homeowner liability.
“We’re working to assist our neighbors with information at our disposal to help them through this difficult time,” said Feldman.
Why couldn’t it have opened under City Hall?