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Home News-Telegram News Sunday fire forces residents of 13 units to seek shelter

Sunday fire forces residents of 13 units to seek shelter

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    An afternoon fire destroyed one section of apartments on Helm Lane and impacted the section next to it Sunday. Church of the Nazarene is serving as a temporary shelter for the residents of the burned and damaged units, with the American Red Cross and Hopkins County Salvation Army assisting them with their immediate needs.

    The blaze was called in just before 2 p.m. Sunday as a fire at the Helm Lane apartments. Sulphur Springs firefighters and police responded.
    When SSFD’s first engine crew arrived, they reported heavy smoke and some flames from the middle section on the same side of the street at the but behind the manager’s office. The second crew approached from the south side, reporting smoke and flames visible from an apartment there. The fire was most visible at apartments 605 and 408 and spreading.
    Sulphur Springs firefighters, quickly realizing the fire was more advanced than their five on-duty firefighters could handle by themselves, requested the county be contacted for additional assistance. Hopkins County, Brinker and North Hopkins firefighters responded, along with at least one firefighter from Miller Grove and one from Tira. Dispatchers also began their call down list, contacting and getting as many firefighters from the two off-duty SSFD shifts to report to the scene as possible to provide additional manpower.
    Hopkins County Sheriff’s Office also arrived to assist police at the scene. The American Red Cross and Hopkins County Salvation Army assisted residents, and the Red Cross also provided cool drinks to help keep firefighters hydrated and snacks to help them refuel. Hopkins County Emergency Medical Services had an ambulance on stand by, with paramedics available in the event any injury or further rehab was needed. A Brinker volunteer firefighters went to the hospital for a knew injury; he reportedly had previously injured the area, and while at the fire aggravated or re-injured it. Another fireman’s nose was bloodied by a fire nozzle.
    “I believe one resident saw the fire and notified the other residents. The resident, it’s my understanding, began knocking on doors, getting other residents out. They were a hand to the police, who when we are short-handed, help with evacuation of renters. The police were a big help there,” said SSFD Fire Marshall Eric Hill.
    Five firefighters attempted to gain entry to the rear apartment for an interior attack, but had to pull back when the blaze flashed over on two of the firefighters, lightly singeing them but causing no severe injuries, according to Hill.
    The wind, which whipped the blaze, manpower and construction of the ceiling hampered firefighters’ efforts to quickly suppress the fire. The ceiling had three different layers, where it had been built upon at different times with different layers.
    Firefighters went defensive, fighting the blaze from the outside to limit potential safety threats. Firemen utilized the ladder truck to get above the structure and spray it, and surrounded the structure on various sides, trying to keep the fire contained to the 16 apartments in one middle unit.
    Police and sheriff’s deputies stationed their vehicles at critical points to prevent people from driving into the affected areas, put up crime scene tape to block it off to give emergency workers room to work and keep residents and bystanders a safe distrance from the fire.
    At one point, everyone at the scene — residents and emergency personnel — were moved back after what was believed to be a gas line was located in the center of the complex as a safety precaution. It was soon determined not to be a natural gas pipe.
    Emergency responders at the scene later said three apartments in the blazing unit contained several large kitchen appliances, particularly refrigerators which caused a loud popping noise as they “blew” when the fire reached them.
    The upper floor of that unit was destroyed and the bottom floor sustained significant heat, smoke and water damage. Of the structures, reportedly 13 were occupied. Those will be uninhabitable. TXU, also on scene, pulled the meters for those apartments. The four apartments just northeast of the damaged unit also sustained heavy smoke damage. The apartment units to the south were being checked for CO2 levels Sunday night to determine whether occupants would be allowed back in them for the night, according to Hill.
    The Church of the Nazarene opened its gym Sunday evening to serve as a temporary shelter for the occupants of the destroyed and other units most affected. The Red Cross considers disasters with more than 10 families a regional disasters requiring a shelter for displaced residents. Otherwise, it’d be considered a local disaster and the Red Cross would assist the occupants by helping to put them up at a local hotel, giving them meal vouchers and helping with necessities, Red Cross personnel Craig Morgan explained Sunday afternoon.
    Thirteen of the destroyed 16-apartment unit were occupied. At least 15 units were also said to have water and smoke damage, displacing numerous families. The American Red Cross and Hopkins County Salvation Army are partnering to assist the families who are displace and lost most if not all of their belongings.
    Firefighters remained at the scene late into the night, overhauling and putting out hotspots and kindling embers, returning once when kindling embers reignited. SSFD had a team lead by SSFD Investigator David James at the structure trying to determine the cause of the blaze Monday.




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