By DON FLETCHER
News Staff Writer
A Marshall Avenue home was declared a total loss after a Monday morning (March 9) fire that started in a car parked in the garage was fanned by stiff winds and quickly spread throughout the home’s attic.
The destructive blaze was reported to emergency dispatchers at 9:31 a.m. as a vehicle fire. City firefighters were conducting an inspection at a school just two blocks away from the fire scene and arrived within two minutes to find the garage and the south end of the home in flames.
“We were doing a fire inspection of Rachel Patterson (Elementary School), when we got the call,” said AFD Head Captain Daniel Love. “We were all over there except the chief (Ron Peebles). We were walking around the far (eastern) end of the school grounds, inspecting the playground equipment, when the call came in. We had to run from one end of the school to the other, a 300-yard sprint.”
Lt. Eugene Edwards said he thought at first that his fellow firemen were kidding when they told him the call had come in.
“I thought they were messing with me,” he said. “Then I saw (Capt.) Zack (Stewart) pointing and looked back and saw the smoke. I looked back at them, then took off.”
The wind-swept flames heated a natural gas line, which exploded and spread the flames, and a call went out for reinforcements.
Several off-duty firemen rushed to the scene, as did units from Poarch Creek Fire Department and Walnut Hill Volunteer Fire Department. A Nokomis firefighter, at work in his office just a few blocks from the fire site, also responded.
“The south wind pushing, along with the gas line burning, created an intense, hot fire,” said Love, who added that the home was effectively destroyed by fire, water and smoke damage.
“It was a total loss,” he said. “We had to cut three holes in the roof because it had blown insulation (in the attic), so we poured as much water as we could to the attic. Blown insulation can hold embers for hours before it re-ignites, so three hours later we might have been back fighting an attic fire again.”
The intense heat caused the siding around the soffit of the neighboring house (on the north end) to melt, but no other structures were damaged.
Peebles was overcome by the thick, dark smoke that surrounded the house and was taken by ambulance to Atmore Community Hospital, where he was treated for smoke inhalation and released.
The fire chief said by text message Monday night that he was fine, that he just “got a little too much smoke.”