At the same time most local firefighters were attending a funeral service for their chief Wednesday morning, a fire in an apartment complex in the 100 block of East Park Street gutted two apartments and damaged several others in the seven-unit building.
The fire necessitated the rescue of two people in the building.
Hopkins County Fire Chief Carl Nix said firefighters from Grapevine and Longview were on standby while Sulphur Springs firemen attended the funeral of Fire Chief Gerry Cleaver when the call came in.
Sulphur Springs Fire Engine 2, staffed by firefighters from Grapevine, was the first to arrive on the scene, according to Nix.
“They had heavy fire on the bottom, downstairs apartment,” Nix said. “They had people coming out of the apartment, so they were initially in the rescue mode.”
The second truck on the scene was Longview Fire Department's Engine 14 and company.
“Engine 14 arrived and helped Hopkins County deputies and Sulphur Springs police make a successful rescue of a child and an adult female,” Nix said. “They cleared all the apartments upon their arrival.”
Nix praised Deputy Paul Fenmore and Police Lt. Brad Horton along with firemen from Grapevine and Longview for their efforts in rescuing the residents of one of the apartments.
“Very, very heroic in their actions today,” he said. “They definitely saved those people's lives. The firefighters on duty today and the sheriff's office and police department, they definitely saved people's lives.”
Nix also praised the quick response of the Grapevine and Longview firefighters in containing the fire.
“Any more time, we would have had fire going both ways,” he said. “It was a common roof, and we were able to cut [the fire] off by cutting a hole in the roof to the south. The original engine companies made access to the second floor, and by cutting that fire off, helped saved those people's lives.”
Residents of the apartment complex said a young boy was home alone in apartment and was thought to have been cooking breakfast when the fire started.
Nix said he could not confirm the report, but said the first firefighters on the scene got the boy out of the burning apartment.
“When the Grapevine engine got here, they met him at the front door,” he said. “They were able to get him out.”
The fire, according to Chief Nix, started in apartment No. 3.
“Definitely that apartment was a total loss along with apartments No. 4 and 2,” he said. “One and 5 had heavy smoke damage.”
“Unfortunately, it was a sad day for the firefighting community with the passing of Chief Gerry Cleaver but, as we all know, this community comes together in a time of need and we were able to successfully take care of this,” Nix said. “We're very fortunate.”
Most of the firemen at this morning's fire live in Sulphur Springs and work at the Grapevine or Longview fire departments.
“I think it just shows the pride in community, most of those people live here and wanted to do something in honor of Chief Cleaver,” Nix said. “It's the best I know they could do right here. I know Chief Cleaver and that's what he would have wanted.”
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