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Four departments fight Monday house fire off Highway Y during icy weather
Four departments fight Monday house fire off Highway Y during icy weather

A propane-fed fire continued to burn Tuesday morning on Laramie Road.
ST. ROBERT, Mo. (Jan. 27, 2009) — Firefighters from four departments worked more than three hours to extinguish a Monday night fire on Laramie Road north of St. Robert off Highway Y, despite being hampered by icy roads and rugged terrain conditions.

Waynesville Rural Fire Chief Doug Yurecko said his department was called at 6:53 p.m. to a residential structure fire at 20822 Laramie Road. That’s a difficult area to reach under the best of conditions due to a steep hill, and sending a dozen fire trucks loaded with water down a hill in ice and sleet made things even more dangerous.

The building was an older wood-frame house with an attached mobile home; both were a total loss and Yurecko estimated the damage at $100,000. The building had no insurance, Yurecko said.

Yurecko said weather delays resulted in 16 minutes elapsing between the time of the call and the first firefighters arriving on the scene.

“Upon arrival, we found three-fourths of the original portion of the building, which was the house, involved in fire,” Yurecko said. “The first problem we had was the slick roads; that does create a delay, and it was way at the bottom of a very steep and long hill, and then their driveway was too narrow for a truck to get in, so we had to hard-lay 600 feet of hose.”

Firefighters also had to deal with a delayed response from Laclede Electric personnel due to weather conditions.

“We had power lines on the ground we had to work around, and that’s always a problem,” Yurecko said. “But (the Laclede Electric linemen) were coming from a transformer change-out on Y Highway nearby.”

No attempt was made to make an interior attack on the blaze due to the extent of the blaze when firefighters arrived, as well as the presence of several explosive hazards.

“There were a couple of propane tanks and also oxygen bottles in the structure. When we found that the propane tanks were venting, we changed our attack to a distance attack. They were definitely feeding the fire,” Yurecko said.

Firefighters reported the blaze under control at 8:51 p.m. and left at 10:05 p.m. but weren’t able to completely extinguish the blaze due to several large propane tanks that continued to vent. Debris continued to burn Tuesday morning; Yurecko said he isn’t worried about the blaze spreading elsewhere due to the wet ground conditions and lack of nearby structures, but warned people to stay away from the fire until it burns out. The propane tanks continue to pose a potential danger, he said.

The damage was so extensive that a cause could not immediately be determined. The state fire marshal’s office hasn’t been called, Yurecko said.

“We probably will not be able to determine a cause of this fire,” Yurecko said.

Fighting large rural fires requires a tanker shuttle to carry water to the scene, and that presented a major problem due to road conditions. Getting a fire engine or fully loaded water tanker down the steep hill on Laramie was problematic, but getting the vehicles back up the hill was deemed unsafe. Pulaski County Road and Bridge Department personnel weren’t initially available so Yurecko called for assistance from Missouri Department of Transportation crews, but county road crews were eventually able to provide the necessary help to sand and clear the roads so tankers could get back to refilling points by going farther west on Laramie Road to Lexington Road and exiting on Highway 17.

“It’s a little flatter and it gets us out a safer way with those tankers,” Yurecko said.

Agencies and personnel responding included the Waynesville Rural Fire Protection District with 17 firefighters on two engines, two tankers, a rescue truck, a command vehicle and one privately owned vehicle, four St. Robert firefighters with an engine, a tanker and a chief vehicle, and two firefighters each from Crocker and Dixon manning one tanker truck from each department. Pulaski County Ambulance District paramedics also responded for standby along with the local Red Cross response unit.

Nobody was hurt in the blaze, Yurecko said, and the ambulance remained at the top of the Laramie hill near the Highway Y intersection to avoid an unneccessary drive down a dangerous road.

Having local Red Cross personnel respond is a relatively new development in Pulaski County. Yurecko said the local Red Cross volunteers arranged emergency housing for the homeowner, Nancy Spicer, her adult son, and another relative living on the property, and also were prepared to assist with replacing needed medications for the fire victims.

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