DARKE COUNTY – With four local fires occurring within nine days of each other, the holiday season proved a volatile one for Darke County.
The first fire occurred on Dec. 22 at 607 South High St. in Arcanum and was reported to appear electrical in nature.
Another occurred four days later at 106 Merrie Lane in Pitsburg when a fire was discovered in the attic of the house.
The third fire occurred just three days later at the 2100 block of State Route 121, north of New Madison, while the fourth fire took place the next day on Dec. 30 at the 100 Block of Jefferson St. in Pitsburg, and preliminary reports also looked electrical in nature.
Pitsburg Fire Chief Tal Mong said that the sudden breakout fires in such a short period of time was unprecedented.
“This is by far the worst (breakout) I’ve had in almost 30 years,” he said. “Honestly its just a fluke. Its a really bad fluke.”
During the Dec. 26 fire in Pitsburg, four firefighters were injured following a roof collapse in the kitchen area. However as reported earlier, each firefighter was treated for minor injuries, and Chief Mong reported that they returned to duty with no adverse affects.
“Everybody was treated and released and is doing just fine and back to active duty,” Mong said.
The ceiling heat system in the kitchen and family room came loose from the ceiling. The units are heavy enough to cause a concussion or other injury, but luckily each firefighter avoided serious harm.
“Luckily the way things worked out everybody was able to crawl through and get out safely.”
Firefighters were also battling blizzard-like conditions during the fire, which created more challenges for all responding personnel.
Transportation to the emergency site is often slower and more dangerous with snow on the roads and slowed traffic caused by adverse weather conditions.
However, the response teams caught a break, as Chief Mong said the weather subsided just hours before the blaze. If the winds remained as strong as they were, the fire could have been much worse, he said.
Mong said that the fire department wished to thank the local community members and families for their support during the fires. He said at one fire, roughly 25 neighbors showed up to ask if they could help. Eventually the neighbors assisted the recently displaced family to gather possessions and salvage what they could.
Chief Mong emphasized the importance of being aware of any electrical and household risks that could potentially cause a fire.
He recommended to keep your house’s electrical wiring up-to-date and to stay conscious of what is plugged into your home’s sockets to avoid an overload.
If a home is using extension cords, make sure they are used on a temporary basis and being laid safely.
“Some people will run extension cords underneath rugs, and that’s not good,” Mong said.
Checking to make sure your electrical and electronic products are Underwriters Laboratories (UL) certified is also recommended. UL is a consulting company which ensures the safety of consumer products.
Winter season also brings another hazard into the home: portable heaters. Families are recommended to remove all debris from the heater’s space, and to make sure the heater can’t tip over. Heaters that can automatically turn off if tipped over are also suggested.
Mong said to be extra aware during home remodeling, when wires can get pinched without anyone noticing.
Also, it is suggested to check your house’s furnace, especially during the winter, and make sure they have undergone a recent inspection and are running smoothly.
If your house has a chimney, make sure to inspect the inspect the chute, and if necessary have a professional clean the space.
Lastly, Chief Mong recommended that if residents burn wood during the winter, they should make sure the wood has been seasoned and is not green while ensuring its stored away from the furnace or fireplace.