QUAPAW - Two separate rural structure fires resulted in the complete loss of two homes Monday evening and another on Tuesday morning, yet no injuries or loss of life occurred.
The Quapaw Tribal Fire Department (QTFD) and the town of Quapaw Fire Department (QFD) responded to both fires with mutual aid from surrounding departments.
The first fire occurred Monday evening around 6:45 p.m. at the Furnas residence at 2800 South 490 Road in Miami.
“We had a call around 6:45 p.m on an unknown fire, so we responded with an engine out of here (QTFD Station One) and then dispatch got back with us and advised it was a structure fire,” Quapaw Tribal Fire Department Chief Jeff Reeves said. “I live fairly close, so I was there within just a few minutes and the whole attic was engulfed.”
Reeves said Mike Furnas and others living in the home all escaped without injury.
“They were home,” Reeves said. “Everyone got out. Once they started seeing the smoke and smelling the smoke they got everybody out.”
Reeves said the fire was difficult to control because of the many layers of roofing on the home.
“It went real fast. We were on scene there about six hours altogether. It was a fairly large house and it was a very, very stubborn fire. It had multiple roofs; a wood shake roof, an asphalt roof, and then it had tin over it. The roof had burned to an extent we couldn't get on the roof.We're not sure at this time what caused the fire, but I am going to guess that it was either electrical or a flue pipe,” Reeves said.“He had a wood stove and it was right in the area of the flue pipe. We are just not for sure yet.”
The fire chief estimates the loss at well over $100,000 for replacement costs and said the structure was insured.
“It's insured and everyone got out. And Mike came to me over and over again, and I don't know how many times he told me, 'Hey Jeff, I appreciate everything you guys do and everything you've done and you know what, everyone is safe,'” Reeves said. “We went all evening and all night and it burnt the whole top off of it.”
Units from QTFD, Quapaw, Commerce, and Miami fire departments also responded to the residence fire with mutual aid for manpower and additional water. According to Reeves the closest hydrant was a couple of miles away from the Furnas' home, but he said these hydrants don't always have enough adequate pressure needed to fight larger fires.
“We were out in an area where there's no hydrants and so we had to haul water,” Reeves said. “We used tankers and hauled it back and forth.”
The Quapaw Fire Department responded to a second structure fire at 3:40 a.m. at the Mathew and Cindy Nelson residence at 7001 South 630 Road in rural Miami east of State Highway 137.
“It was a single story house,” Quapaw Fire Chief Billie Kerley said. “They were alarmed by smoke detectors. They were asleep and Matt woke up from the alarm. They got out and called 911.”
Kerley said the Nelsons and their young children all escaped from their home uninjured.
“When we pulled up it was vented out the front of the eaves off the front and off the back.” Kerley said. “I'm going to say it was pretty much a total loss. There were a couple bedrooms in the southwest corner they had some clothes in, but we called the Red Cross for them and Red Cross had made contact with the family. That much heat and that much smoke they probably couldn't salvage much. We did our best to get what we could. We hate to see anyone lose their home at any time and especially at this time of year.”
Kerely said he believed the structure was insured, but he had no dollar estimate of the loss. The fire chief was unsure of the cause of the structure fire.
“We do auto aid with the Quapaw Tribe and Miami Fire Department came with a tanker and their air machine and we called Peoria for a tanker,” Kerley said.
Both fire chiefs stressed the importance and benefits of auto aid and mutual aid agreements between area fire departments and emergency service units.
“It works out good,” Kerley said. “The days of doing it on your own are gone.”
The added benefits of extra equipment and manpower provides better and safer response for firefighters and greater services to area residents according to both fire chiefs.
“Miami brought their air trailer and that helped out because we went through every one of our air bottles,” Reeves said. “Mutual aid in Ottawa County works very well.”
With drier conditions and cooler winter weather approaching Ottawa County, both fire chiefs wanted to remind residents to check smoke detectors, heating units and wood stoves.
Another precaution they gave was to be sure when dumping fireplace or wood stove ashes out they are completely extinguished leaving no embers to reignite later.
“When they dump ashes or wood stoves there may be a hot ember and it will set their field on fire,” Reeves said. “It's that time of year.”
Having chimney flues and heating units cleaned and checked and serviced yearly is also good idea to help prevent fires, Reeves and Kerley said.