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‘Rapid response’ by AFD can’t save Harris Street home

AFD Capt. Zack Stewart pries a piece of smoldering soffit from the house.

News Staff Reports

Despite one of the swiftest responses in agency history, Atmore firefighters were unable to save a burning Harris Street home last week.
Fire Chief Ron Peebles said AFD units were pulling up to the fire site when emergency dispatchers sounded the alarm.
“We had a one-minute response,” Peebles said. “Our guys were actually pulling out to go get breakfast and saw the smoke, so they decided to ride over that way and see what was happening. About the time they got on Harris Street, the tones went out. They immediately radioed back that they were on the scene.”
Reports show the initial alert was transmitted at 8:22 a.m. and the first unit arrived at 8:23 a.m.
Despite the rapid response, windswept flames enveloped the interior of the wooden dwelling and spread quickly into the ceiling and attic. That made it a stubborn fire to extinguish.
Off-duty AFD personnel and volunteers were called in, and a Poarch Creek Indians unit was sent to assist.
“It was already engulfed in flames when we arrived,” Peebles said. “Flames were visible inside the living room, the bedrooms — the whole back side of the home was in flames. We called in Poarch, and all extra Atmore personnel were called in.”
Even with the extra help, firefighters battled the blaze for more than 90 minutes and didn’t clear the scene until 10:10 a.m.
Fire officials are not sure just how the fire started but haven’t discounted the possibility that it could have originated from a space heater left unattended in a bedroom.
“It looks to have started in the bedroom adjacent to the living room,” Peebles said. “It possibly started from a space heater, but we’re not sure.”
Fortunately, the home’s occupant was not inside when the fire started. Unfortunately, he lost all his possessions to the flames.
“He lost everything — his medications, his food, his clothes, his money — and he had no insurance,” said the fire chief, who added that fire, water and smoke damage combined to make the house a total loss.