Richland woman loses home to attic electrical fire on Christmas night
By: Darrell Todd Maurina
Firefighters weren't able to save this home on Christmas night after the burning attic collapsed into the living room.
RICHLAND, Mo. (Dec. 28, 2009) — Tri-County firefighters nearly saved the home of a Richland woman whose attic caught fire late Christmas night, but as they were finishing their work, the weakened attic beams gave way and sent flaming debris crashing down into the living room.
Tri-County Fire Chief Rick Hobbs said the blaze broke out about 11:30 p.m. Christmas night and when his department personnel and Hazelgreen firefighters arrived, they found that about half to three-quarters of attic of the home on 210 East McClurg Avenue was on fire.
“There was actually no fire in the living area at all,” Hobbs said. “The guys went in and got a pretty good knockdown, and as they were extinguishing the fire, the ceiling in the living room area fell in which made it a little more difficult to get it fully extinguished.”
Once the attic beams collapsed, Hazelgreen and Richland firefighters spent considerably more time working to put out the blaze.
“It took us probably a couple of hours to get it completely out, but Hazelgreen was in one end of it and my guys were in the other end of it and got it extinguished,” Hobbs said. “In the living room, only a few things were salvageable after we got the stuff that caved in on top of it out, but the rest of the house had mostly smoke and water damage.”
The home was owner-occupied rather than a rental unit, and Hobbs said the homeowner, Jinger Stephens, did not have insurance. She and one other adult lived in the home, he said.
Joe Krill from the Pulaski County unit of the Red Cross was called Monday to assist, Hobbs said.
“Joe is helping her out but I don’t know the extent of what that will be,” Hobbs said.
The two fire districts sent a total of 15 firefighters to the blaze, and by the time the fire was under control at 2:30 a.m. Saturday, eight Tri-County firefighters were using an engine, ladder truck, and command vehicle; seven Hazelgreen firefighters assisted with an engine, a brush truck, and a command vehicle.
Pulaski County Ambulance District personnel were at the scene on standby but no one was injured. Richland police also assisted with traffic control.
Firefighters finally finished their work about 3:30 a.m., Hobbs said.
“It’s rough on us to go out on Christmas Day, but that’s why we’re here, that’s why we volunteer, and I think we’d look at it that if we were in that situation, we’d sure want someone to come out and do it for us,” Hobbs said.
The fire isn’t considered suspicious.
Hobbs, who also serves as the head electric lineman for the city of Richland, said he concurs with the homeowner’s belief that her fire was caused by electrical problems.
“We didn’t even call the fire marshal because she told us where it started. The light in the living room she had a ceiling fan put in and had some trouble with it, and she said that’s where it started,” Hobbs said.
The Christmas night fire was the second so far this year on the same block of McClurg Avenue and both are likely due to electrical issues. Hobbs said the older homes in that neighborhood need to be checked for potential electrical problems, just as should be done in any older home.
“They are old railroad houses,” Hobbs said. “The wiring in those old houses (is) probably getting close to 80 or 90 years old.”
Hobbs said Richland city officials want to help homeowners protect their homes from fire hazards.
“We’ll come out if they want us to come out and give suggestions. We do give out free smoke detectors if they’ve got children under 16, and we’ll install it as long as you promise to maintain it and keep it going,” Hobbs said.
However, some problems require more work than city officials can do on city time or go beyond the expertise of volunteer firefighters.
“Have an electrician come in and check your breaker box and electrical wiring, especially if you’ve got an older house,” Hobbs said. “If you’re having trouble with it, have a licensed electrician come out and check it.”