Townsend fire a close call
- A fire in Townsend Jan. 5 almost turned deadly, but quick thinking by firefighters saved their lives.
The Jan. 5 fire that gutted a Townsend apartment building was a close call for local volunteer firefighters.
If not for quick thinking, the blaze could have turned fatal.
"In 22 years of fire service, I can honestly say I have never seen this at a fire scene," said Kenneth Getty, a volunteer with the Odessa Fire Company.
Odessa Captain Tom Shoemaker was in a second floor bedroom in the Main Street apartment building when conditions began to rapidly deteriorate.
"I told my partner we needed to exit the building," Shoemaker, a 21-year veteran, said.
The temperature was increasing rapidly and thick, chocolate colored smoke was rushing out of the window.
"It was a sign that a flashover could happen," he said.
Using his best instincts and what he learned in training, Shoemaker and his partner, a volunteer from the Townsend Fire Company, bailed out of a second floor window.
"Due to continuing fire fighter training, conditions were recognized to eliminate the possibility of injury," he said.
Heavy flames followed them, spirally out of the same window.
The flashover, which is when the whole room ignites on fire, happened within seconds of the two men exiting the building.
Getty said that if they wouldn't have bailed, the blaze could have turned fatal.
It was the first time in 22 years he saw someone have to bail like that, he said.
Shoemaker and his partner were advancing a hose line through a second floor window when the conditions began to deteriorate rapidly, officials said.
"Luckily he was trained, so he knew what he was doing," Getty said. "That stuff doesn't happen around here."
Shoemaker, a career firefighter in New Castle for 13 years and a life member of the Townsend Fire Company, said that he would rate the Jan. 5 fire as one of three worst he has seen in his tenure.
At around 2:02 p.m. Jan. 5, the Odessa Fire Company was called to assist the Townsend Fire Company at the apartment building.
Heavy smoke coming from the two-story building was reported, officials said.
Seven additional fire companies were called to the fire.
The blaze displaced three families who were living in the Main Street apartment building.
No injuries were reported.