ShareThis Page
News

Firefighters battle Apollo blaze for hours

| Thursday, Aug. 12, 2010

A stubborn fire gutted a house at 311 North Fifth St. in Apollo on Wednesday afternoon, leaving at least three people homeless.

It took firefighters from more than a half-dozen departments about four hours to knock down the bulk of the flames that burned through the roof of the two-story, wood-frame house.

Bystanders said a woman who lived on the first floor was sleeping when the fire began about 1:15 p.m.

She reportedly heard the smoke detectors and escaped unharmed with her dog; her cat was unaccounted for.

The identities of the downstairs tenant and the house's owner were not immediately available.

Kenneth George, who rents the upstairs apartment with his mother, Thelma George, said neither of them was home when the fire started.

"This is the second time my house has burned down," Kenneth George said. Now 28 years old, George said he was about 9 when his family's home on Seventh Street in Apollo was destroyed by flames.

George said they do not have renters' insurance.

"This is the second time we lost everything," he said. "Next time, we'll get insurance."

Several of George's tools were recovered, but he was skeptical that many of their possessions would be saved.

Apollo No. 3 Fire Chief Mike Mollick said a state police fire marshal would investigate the fire's cause, but Mollick did not believe it was suspicious.

Neighbors said the fire appeared to start in the first-floor kitchen area.

Five hours after the fire began, crews still were spraying water and fire-suppressing foam on hot spots and using tools to rip away smoldering pieces of the roof, gutters and pale green siding. Firefighters were called back to the house at 8:15 p.m. when the flames rekindled.

Heat sickens firefighters

Not only was the fire difficult to extinguish, but the firefighters were working in hot, humid conditions. Temperatures soared to a high of 93 degrees, according to the National Weather Service, and Wednesday was declared an Air Quality Action Day.

Mollick said five firefighters were treated for heat stress.

"It's a very hot day to be fighting fires," Mollick said.

Paramedics and volunteers constantly distributed water, juice and freeze-pops to crews who rested on the steps and yard of Richard Lookhart's house across the street on Pennsylvania Avenue.

Lookhart said he was working in his basement when his stepson, 14-year-old Kenith Walters Jr., yelled there was a fire nearby and the family's vehicles needed to be moved.

Walters said he was in his backyard working on his all-terrain vehicle when he felt the heat radiating from the fire.

Lookhart, who is related to the George family, said he ran toward the burning house to make sure everyone had escaped when he saw firefighters had arrived.

Mollick said the ongoing sewer-separation project did not impact water availability for firefighters.

Since he arrived later in the afternoon, Mollick was not certain whether any rescue vehicles had difficulty accessing the scene as a result of the dug-up streets caused by the project.

Route 56/66, also known as Warren Avenue, was limited to one lane for much of the afternoon near the fire scene.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.

click me