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Fighting Rural Fires

Written By: Joe Melillo

Battling a fire is tough enough but sometimes the hardest part for firefighters is just getting to the scene of an emergency. Fire crews say they did their best to rush to a massive fire Friday night that completely destroyed a home in Horseheads.

Fighting Rural Fires
 

October 15, 2012

Horseheads (WENY) - Battling a fire is tough enough but sometimes the hardest part for firefighters is just getting to the scene of an emergency. Fire crews say they did their best to rush to a massive fire Friday night that completely destroyed a home in Horseheads. Homes in rural towns and villages like here in the Twin Tiers can be more than 15 minutes away from the nearest fire station. Distance can cause serious issues for firefighters when speed is of the utmost importance for battling a blaze. Town and country fire Chief Ben Colewell told me that in 31 years, he's only seen two houses go up as fast as the house on Veteran Hill Road on Friday. Usually, his crew can get to a scene quickly and take out any sized fire.

     “Usually we're on the road within two to three minutes from the time of the call, on the road with a full crew and then it's just road time after that,” says Chief Colwell.

      The fire on Veteran Hill Road on Friday night broke out a little more than seven miles away from the Town and Country firehouse located in the heart of the village. Fire trucks got there as fast as possible, and still weren't able to save the house.

      “There were seven or eight different response teams and I thought they were perfect,” says Neighbor Joseph Rickard. “I mean its going to take time to get here but it was pretty quick.”

      For firefighters responding to a fire in a rural area, the most important thing is water... And bringing a lot of it.

      “The city and the villages have water systems you get past a couple miles out of the town and villages and you have no water. Everybody is running on tankers,” says Chief Colwell.

      Town and Country's tanker is one of the two of the largest in Chemung County it holds 3,000 gallons. Within a minute and a half of reaching a fire, firemen can pump out water at 200 gallons a minute, but even those speeds couldn't help slow the flames on Friday. Chief Colwell believes the fire was a perfect storm of circumstances. He says the fire was burning longer than an hour before anyone noticed. The construction of the more than century old house accelerated the flames.

     “It went from thinking we had a room and contents to crazy in a matter of a seconds,” says Colwell.

      No matter how old the house is, the chief has the same advice for everyone.

      “Get out of the house make sure you have working smoke detectors make sure you keep your chimneys clean if your burning wood but if something happens just get out of the house.”

     The family living in the house that burned down Friday escaped before it went up in flames, and is staying with family. As for the cause, Colewell says we may never know, because the flames caused so much damage all the evidence was destroyed. However, he does not suspect any foul play was involved.