By DON FLETCHER
News Staff Writer
An Atmore home was declared a total loss, mainly from damage caused by black, acrid smoke and massive amounts of water after a small army of firefighters spent nearly two hours Monday (August 1) battling a fire that was fueled by smoldering insulation in its attic.
“It was a total loss,” Atmore Fire Chief Ron Peebles said of the home, located at the corner of 4th Avenue and Horner Street. “It appears to have been caused by an electrical short in the stove. The fire went right up the wall and into the attic, which had blown insulation in it.”
Peebles said such insulation is great for keeping the home cool in the summer and warm in the winter but is a nightmare for firefighters.
“That’s the best thing for the house, but the worst thing for us,” he explained. “An ember could land on it and smolder for hours, and that’s pretty much what happened here.”
AFD units were called back to the scene around 6 p.m. after the fire reignited by just such an occurrence.
“We poured the water to it until we got it all,” the chief said. “That’s all you can do in a situation like that.”
AFD units were initially sent to the site around 3:15 p.m. after a passerby reported hearing a “pop,” then seeing smoke start to emanate from the dwelling.
As flames began rolling through the home’s front windows, city police officers grabbed hoses and rushed to help firemen take control of the situation until enough firefighters arrived.
Following structure-fire protocol, all off-duty city firefighters were called in, and assistance was requested from Poarch Creek Indians Fire Department and Walnut Hill Volunteer Fire Department. Within a few minutes, several dozen firefighters were on the scene.
“It’s better to have them and not need them than it is to need them and not have them,” explained AFD Capt. Jeremy Blackmon.
“When it’s 100 degrees, after 15 minutes or so a man has to step down,” he said. “That’s why we wanted all the extra people there. It was so hot in there that it melted the televisions in the room on the other end of the house.”
One firefighter suffered heat exhaustion but was given water and examined by Medstar personnel at the scene. Blackmon said the emergency medical professionals, who purchased the water from their own pockets, deserved kudos for their help.
“They were great,” he said.