Archive for Thursday, June 5, 2003

Dual fires in two days keep Eudora firefighters busy

June 5, 2003

Eudora's first full-time fire chief and its volunteer firefighters were put to the test last week when they fought two structure fires in two days, one at the Pinecrest retirement apartments May 28 and another May 29 at the Grandview Mobile Home Park.

Because both fires occurred in the early evening -- at 6:17 p.m. and 5:31 p.m. -- they created a unique situation for the volunteers, said Fire Chief Spencer McCabe.

"That's a very dangerous time for us because (volunteers) are arriving home and eating dinner, and they're not in a position where they can go flying out the door right away," he said.

McCabe said he had already left the department the evening of the trailer fire. But he found being a full-time chief had some organizational advantages.

"By me being able to get there, I can establish the command post and get a scope on what the guys need to do," he said.

During the Grandview fire, neighbors expressed frustration with how long it took firefighters to arrive on the scene. Yet McCabe said the seven-minute response time was average. In contrast, firefighters responded to the the May 28 fire at Pinecrest in about four minutes. However, the chief said he understood why neighbors would be upset.

"In an emergency, a minute can seem like an hour," he said.

In addition to the difficult time of day the fires occurred, McCabe said firefighters had certain safety procedures they have to go through before leaving the station that those watching a blaze may not think about.

Even though McCabe said firefighters were discouraged to hear about frustrations with the response time, he said overall the crew felt good about the Grandview call.

"These members do so much to try and maintain the level of professionalism that we present to the public," he said. "We couldn't save the structure. It was unsaveable from the beginning."

The two fires in two days were part of what's shaping up to be a busy year, McCabe said, estimating the department had already received about 40 calls this year.

"We receive approximately 12 structure fire calls a year, and maybe an average of six are working fires," he said. "I can think of five already this year."

That includes a February house fire in the 900 block of Ash Street, which resulted in a fatality.

"We've been getting challenged this year, but these guys are handling it," McCabe said.

The May 28 fire at Pinecrest resulted in Nancy Parsons, 52, being flown by ambulance helicopter to Kansas University Medical Center with severe burns. McCabe said she had second degree burns on 25 percent of her upper body. He said the fire started when Parsons was smoking while her medical oxygen purifier was being used. She ran out of the house in flames.

"The best thing she had was her neighbor who started pouring water on her," he said.

Fire damage was contained to her unit only, McCabe said.

No occupants were home at the time of the May 29 trailer fire in the Grandview Trailer Court. McCabe said the blaze was ignited by a candle, and the snaps and pops observers heard could have come from ammunition, which he said people often have in their homes for hunting rifles or other firearms.

"Those rounds get exposed to fire and they will explode," he said. "We always kind of have to back out and wait."

Although the trailer was destroyed, firefighters stopped the blaze before it ignited any other structures. Douglas County Red Cross Director Jane Blocher said the agency was assisting the trailer's two residents, Shelly Stone and her son Kirk, by providing them with vouchers for clothing, food and lodging. Blocher said Eudorans who donate to the Red Cross sometimes thought their donations only helped victims in the Lawrence area.

"We're still helping this woman and her son," she said.

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