By DON FLETCHER
News Staff Writer
Sirens were a constant sound across the city around daylight last Wednesday, January 30, as firefighters from Atmore, Walnut Hill and Poarch battled two structure fires that erupted just minutes apart.
Flames danced inside a mobile home as Atmore Fire Department units arrived at the intersection of South Road and Cross Road, about two miles south of downtown, around 5:50 a.m.
Just as AFD firefighters began pouring water to the fire, a call came in that a house on Martin Luther King Drive was aflame. While one group stayed to battle the mobile home blaze, Chief Ron Peebles raced to meet another unit at the MLK site.
Walnut Hill units on their way to help with the MLK fire, where flames and smoke spewed from the north end of a brick home, were diverted to the first fire. Off-duty AFD personnel and Poarch firefighters arrived at the MLK site, and one of the Walnut Hill units was sent to South Road, where the suppression effort had become a struggle.
Firemen were at the South Road scene for three hours before the trailer fire was finally quelled. Peebles said the mobile home, which was used solely for storage, was a total loss. AFD’s investigation into the cause of the blaze continued this week.
“We had called in our off-duty people when the second one came in,” he said. “Poarch sent a truck, and Walnut Hill already had a crew in route to the MLK fire, so we diverted them to South Road. There were two or three trailers right around that one. We had plenty of help, so we were able to keep the fire from spreading to any of them.”
He said a woman and her children — who lived with her mother in a nearby mobile home — had stored all their clothes, furniture and other possessions inside the one that burned.
“We called the Red Cross to get them some help,” said Peebles, who said the structure was pretty much lost when “fire got into the attic and ran.”
The MLK fire was a more intense blaze, and the results were the same.
“There was a lot of fire there,” the chief said. “It got up in the attic and went through. It burned into the kitchen, too. This one was also a total loss.”
He identified a familiar culprit as the destructive blaze’s catalyst.
“It started from a space heater,” he said. “That’s the third one since December. We had the one on Cloverdale, the one on Adams and this one. All of them started from a space heater; it’s like that every year. We preach and preach about how dangerous space heaters can be, especially if you’re not careful with what you put around them.”