Archive for Wednesday, July 19, 2006

County’s firefighters lend a hand in Perry

Blaze in auto shop taxes firefighters; Leavenworth County sends help

July 19, 2006

A fire tore through a Perry automotive shop Monday, sending firefighters from 10 different departments scrambling to battle both the flames and the 98-degree temperatures of summer.

Leavenworth County firefighters provided help with the incident, in which flames destroyed the car bays of Automotive Perfection, 204 Front St., after a spark ignited a car's removed fuel tank.

Gasoline and oil fueled the blaze, catching everything inside on fire and quickly spreading to the building's walls and double-stacked ceiling, Kentucky Township Fire Chief David Warriner said.

"There was a pretty large fire load," Warriner said. "It made it difficult to access the fire."

And oven-like temperatures drastically shortened the time firefighters could work, Warriner said. About 60 firefighters worked in tandem to squelch the fire, which broke out just after 11 a.m. in the Jefferson County town.

Local law enforcement and ambulances also responded, though no one was hurt. The store's owner, Raymond Patterson, couldn't be reached for comment.

The ceiling of the decades-old automotive shop had been remodeled several times, leaving layers of wood and other materials that acted as kindling once the gas-fueled flames ignited.

"We just couldn't get to it," Kentucky Township Assistant Chief Doug Porter said.

More than 20 firefighters from six Leavenworth County departments arrived about 1 p.m., to spell Jefferson County firefighters who had been battling the blaze.

"We had three people go from here," said Tonganoxie city fire Capt. John Callaghan. "They offered relief for the Jefferson County firefighters, who were exhausted."

Chuck Magaha, Leavenworth County's emergency management director, asked for help from all Leavenworth County departments, after receiving a call from his counterpart in Jefferson County. Magaha found 23 volunteers, without depleting the firefighting forces in the county.

Once in Perry, firefighters found the blaze was under control.

"Due to the heat and the nature of the beast, their folks were essentially drained," Magaha said. "They had been out there 2 1/2 hours prior to our crews showing up."

The Leavenworth County crews took over, extinguishing hot spots and helping Jefferson County firefighters put equipment away. But they were mindful of the 98-degree temperature and 48 percent humidity.

"We'd put guys in and we were rotating them out every 15 minutes," Magaha said. "We'd send a couple of teams in and bring them out, and then send in two more teams.

"I'm proud of our guys."

Though the auto bay portion of the shop was a total loss, firefighters worked to save the larger, attached building at the business. After the flames finally died down, their efforts paid off, and the building was saved.

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