The Woodward News

October 20, 2012

Fire damages homes

Everyone was able to get out safely

Rowynn Ricks
Woodward News

Woodward, Okla. — Two homes in the 1700 block of 6th St. were damaged Friday after a fire broke out in the garage of one of the homes and then started to spread to the second structure.

Late Friday morning, Betty Eastin was sitting in a chair in her living room when she noticed "a thin wisp of smoke" float past the window outside.

Knowing something might be wrong, Eastin called to her daughter Sharon Ashlock, who went outside to investigate.

Seeing flames coming out of her neighbor's garage, Ashlock didn't hesitate to go over and make sure her elderly neighbor Thelma Shepherd made it out okay.

"She was just standing there in her kitchen.  I said 'Thelma, we got to get out of here, your house is on fire!," Ashlock said.

After helping Shepherd outside, with Shepherd's little dog "Chico" following behind, Ashlock returned to her own house to get her family out as the fire had spread to the siding of her home.  All 5 of her family members and their 2 dogs were also able to make it out safely.

"I just thank God over and over that I saw the smoke," Eastin said.  "Because we might have all lost everything."



A SCARED LITTLE GIRL

Ashlock said she told her mother Eastin to call the fire department, but it was her 9-year-old daughter Keonna Ashlock who dialed 9-1-1.

"I said, 'there is a fire next door to me and it's starting to get my house too,'" Keonna told The News.

"I was scared," Keonna said with tears in her eyes as firefighters still worked to extinguish the flames around 1 p.m. Friday.

The girl was mostly afraid that her bedroom and belongings had been destroyed by fire.  However, by 2:30 p.m. Keonna was able to return to her house and check out her bedroom and see that only minimal damage was done.

"The windows are broken out," she said.

Her mother said there was also some smoke damage in the rooms on the south side of the house.

But overall, Ashlock said the damage "doesn't look too bad, other than my 7-year-old's bedroom, where the fire tried to come in after the window was broken out.  But only the curtain was melted and there was smoke damage up the wall.  So other than that and the outside siding, I think we pretty much got out of this okay."

Ashlock said it appears that most of their possessions were left unscathed by the fire.



'QUITE A BIT' OF DAMAGE

However, Shepherd's home and possessions didn't fare nearly as well.

This was evidenced by the charred remains a sofa and chair left sitting out in her front yard after being pulled from the home as firefighters worked to put out the blaze.  And by the blackened photo albums firefighters later carried out to give to Shepherd's family.

While sad at the loss of many of her possessions, her family was grateful that Shepherd was safe.

"I'm just glad she got out because we can replace everything in there," said A. J. Bird as he looked toward Shepherd's burned home.

Assistant Fire Chief Todd Finley said there was "quite a bit of structural damage" to Shepherd's home.

"We're estimating a $45,000 loss, with another $25,000 in losses on the contents," Finley told The News.



FIRE PRESENTED CHALLENGES

Finley said Friday's fire presented a number of challenges that kept firefighters from being able to extinguish it more quickly.

One of the biggest challenges was just how fast the fire had spread.

"When crews arrived on scene the carport area was on fire.  The carport was fully involved and the fire had extended into the attic of the home.  It had also extended up the siding of house number 2," Finley said.

In beginning their exterior attack on the blaze, firefighters first worked to extinguish the fire on the Ashlocks' home.

"That's what we call exposure control," the assistant fire chief said, noting.  "We don't want to have 2 house fires at once."

Once the siding fire was extinguished, fire crews quickly doused the garage fire.  

But as more firefighters arrived and got geared up to start an interior attack on the attic fire, they ran into some trouble, Finley said.

"We had kind of a tough time with the attic fire," he said.  "Attic fires are difficult to begin with.  But we then had issues with getting enough of the ceiling down to get access to the attic space to get enough water in there.  We had to pull our guys out and use the ladder truck to pour copious amounts of water into our ventilation hole."

He was referring to the large hole in the roof that firefighters had cut to vent out smoke from the fire, as well as keep the fire from spreading further through the attic.

After knocking down the fire in the attic to a more manageable level, fire crews were sent back into the home to finish putting out the flames from the interior, Finley said.

The assistant fire chief said "low water pressure in that area also played a role" in extending the amount of time it took to extinguish the blaze.

"We ran out of water in our trucks before we had the fire under control," he said.

However, thanks to assistance from volunteer fire crews from Mooreland and Sharon in addition to Woodward firefighters, Finley said they had plenty of personnel.

"I'm really impressed with the way all the departments worked together," he said.  "It's good that we are able to call other agencies in to help.  That's one of the big plusses in this area."

The exact cause of Friday's fire is undetermined.

"We're not quite sure how it started, but we think it may have had something to do with electrical issues in the home," Finley said, noting that officials "found an electrical cord and some electronics in the area of origin, which was a small tool shed on the east side of the carport."