Friday, January 4, 2013
A fire described as “an anomaly” in a one-story concrete block home resisted
Columbia firefighters’ efforts to put it out for more than two hours at midday yesterday.
The first fire crew inside the building at 207 Cemetery Ave.
appeared to have the fire under control when it flashed over, briefly trapping
the firefighters inside.
Capt. Mark Gandee, one of those inside the
structure, said, “We were making good headway when fire rolled out of the attic
and blocked us. We had to fight our way out.”
That’s when firefighters
changed to a “defensive attack,” pouring water on the house and an adjacent
building, Wetswerd Motor Cars, Gandee said. But despite being sprayed with four
hoses and a snorkel mounted on top of the ladder extended over the department’s
new ladder truck, flames and thick smoke continued to pour from around the
“At one time we were pumping 1,500-1,800 gallons a minute,” Gandee
said. By the one-hour mark, water was pouring out the front door of the house
and cascading in a torrent off the front porch.
Fire Chief Lee Bergeron, who
was directing operations at the scene, said, “You’re seeing an anomaly of
fighting fires now.” Although initial reports were that the fire started in or
around a wood-burning stove, Bergeron later said he was told the fire started
elsewhere. He said cans of paint and lacquer were inside the home. Two stacks of
firewood were in the front yard.
“We’ll go in and look later, but for now it
looks like possible accidental,” Bergeron said.
The stubbornness of the blaze
could be attributed to the fact that the house was an old building, Gandee
“It’s just a well-built old house,” he explained. “The timbers and
two-by-fours are rough-cut oak. That’s the difference between old-style
construction and today’s lighter-built buildings. These fires don’t burn as hot,
but they burn longer.”
No firefighters were injured, Bergeron said, but it
was a close call.
“These fires kill more firefighters than the big,
spectacular ones,” he said.
The chief said a woman who rents the house told
fire officials she was home when the fire broke out, and tried to fight it
before calling 911 and leaving the building with her two dogs.
The woman, who
identified herself at the scene as Tammy Woods, refused further comment, saying,
“My landlady asked me not to talk to you.”
Bail bondsman John Totty, also at
the scene, said he owns the auto business on one side of the home and an office
building on the other. Bergeron said the auto business suffered minimal damage,
but both structures were saved.
“The main thing,” Totty said, “is nobody’s