Structure fires keeping county departments busy

Firefighters on the scene of an attic fire in the Helicon area.

WINSTON COUNTY   -  A house fire on Bull Branch Road at Smith Lake had possibly been burning for several hours before being noticed by a neighbor.
The fire on Bull Branch Road off Daniel Drive was one of two structure fires  occurring within one day of each other recently in Winston County, the other being in the Helicon area.
The fire in the Lakeshore area of Double Springs was first called in at 7:23 a.m. Feb. 1, but had possibly been burning for several hours before it was noticed, noted Lt. Erik Gilbreath of the Double Springs Fire Department.
“The neighbor across the lake saw it and didn’t know if it was a structure fire or a grass fire,” Gilbreath said.
Based on this call, the DS Fire Department were in route 7:23 a.m., arriving on the scene at 7:41 a.m., with three units and six responders, Gilbreath said.
“The first guy who rolled up, David Robbins, in his personal vehicle reported back to the incoming units that the structure was already on the ground and to get Alabama Power in route,” said Gilbreath.
The structure had once been a two floor log cabin style lake home, where Eric Thweatt, a firefighters with the Oxford, Mississippi Fire Department, had resided part time the past two years, officials on the scene said.
In fact, Thweatt, who is also a building contractor, had built most all of the houses in Paradise Point subdivision where he lived part time, officials said.
No one was home when the fire occurred. Other residents in the neighborhood, as Thweatt, were part time residens, and were not home when the fire occurred, so no one in the immediate area reported the fire, just a neighbor across the lake the following morning.
“It had started the night before. It possibly started after midnight,” Gilbreath stated.
Firefighters arrived to find the house had collapsed, with mainly smoke and few flames visible, he said.
Gilbreath noted winds must have been light, for the fire to not have spread to any neighboring structures or property.
The fire had burned an area of grass about 100 feet from the residence, according to Gilbreath.
Firefighters used about 1,000 gallons of water from their trucks to spray down the remainder of the flames. The closest hydrant was about six miles away.
Fire personnel tried to find out the owner of the property, so they obtained information from a tag on a jet ski and gave it to Double Springs Police which ran the number to find the identification, Gilbreath said.
“Especially with him being a fireman, that hits closer to home,” said Gilbreath. “It could happen to anybody.”
Gilbreath encouraged those who might notice a possible fire to please call emergency 9-1-1 or notify authorities.
“I’d much rather run on a false alarm and not be needed than not be called when needed,” he said.
Helicon Structure Fire Proves Difficult 
to Battle
The Helicon Fire Department was called out Jan. 31, to a structure fire on 2190 County Road 40, responding to find fire in the attic area of a double wide manufactured home at Thomas residence, noted Greg Ackley, assistant fire chief.
“The attic was well involved, but it hadn’t vented yet,” Ackley noted, adding the department was dispatched 4:09 p.m.
A fire vents when it receives enough air to fuel it, so this fire was contained to the attic area of the home. Firemen reported seeing heavy smoke with the fire contained within the attic, Ackley indicated.
“You couldn’t see fire, just heavy smoke coming from the attic,” said Ackley.
Helicon responded with the service truck, tanker and engine, with Arley providing assistance with an engine and two tankers.
Fire crews divided up, with a section of them going inside the structure to battle the blaze, finding a beam across the center of the double wide making fighting the fire more difficult, firefighters said.
“We actually had difficulty in getting it under control because of that beam,” Ackley said.
Firefighters also battled the blaze from the outside, cutting two holes in the structure, in order to spray water inside, firefighters on the scene said.
It took about 4,000 gallons of water to beat down the attic blaze, with firefighters having to shuttle water from the closest fire hydrant located less than a mile from the area, firefighters said.
Fire damage was mainly confined to the attic area, with the lower level being damaged by water and falling debris, since firefighters had to pull down the ceiling in order to access the blaze.
The blaze had been contained within about 45 minutes, said firefighters, noting that most of the contents of the home were salvageable.
The fire had actually started from the burning of trash close to the residence, according to Ackley, noting the occupants of the home were burning trash, but no one was injured in the blaze.
The fire spread into some equipment then up the siding of the house and into the attic, he noted.
“The burn pile was too close to the house, maybe 10 feet,” Ackley pointed out. “You shouldn’t burn anything closer than 50 feet to the home.”
Ackley commended all of the firefighters from Helicon and Arley for doing a “fantastic” job.
“This was a very difficult fire,” he said. “Most of the times you have roofs burn off in attic fires like this.”


See complete story in the Northwest Alabamian.
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