Lawn mower fire ignites home

A portion of a McRae Street home suffered moderate damage February 18, when a lawn mower inexplicably burst into flames that swept threatened the home’s patio and spread into its attic.

The homeowner said he had been home from work about a half-hour when his wife alerted him to a strange noise that was coming from the patio area.

“I got home from work around 9:15 (p.m.),” explained the man. “Around 9:45 my wife told me she heard some kind of noise coming from the end of the house with the garage. We looked out there and saw that the lawn mower was in flames, and that they were spreading to the house.”

Two Atmore Fire Department trucks and 11 firefighters were dispatched at 9:45 p.m. and arrived on the scene at 9:48. They remained until 1:15 a.m. to make sure the flames didn’t flare back up.

“Thank goodness they got here so quick,” he homeowner said. “They were here about three minutes after we called.”

The crew of the first-arriving fire engine was able to immediately assess the situation and launch a concerted suppression effort that contained the fire to the house’s eastern end.

“We had a good, quick response,” said AFD Chief Ron Peebles. “They got right to the seat of the fire. Luckily, they were able to go through the front door and climb the attic ladder to fight the fire in the attic. Three rooms on the east end of the house and the attic above them had pretty good fire and water damage; the rest of the house just had smoke damage.”

As firefighters carried out their duties, the window air conditioner that services the home’s glassed-in patio also caught fire, and blistering heat caused several patio windows to explode.

Peebles said the incident marked just the second time he remembered a lawn mower catching fire and spreading to a residence. An October 2016 blaze that destroyed the Rockaway Creek Road home of Scott and Donna Lee, who have since rebuilt, was the first.

“This one started just like that one,” Peebles said. “The lawn mower was under a little lean-to, and when it caught fire, it spread to the attic. A few more minutes and this one would have been just like the one on Rockaway Creek Road.”