PHOTO: According to the Blake Volunteer Fire Department, three firefighters were treated at the scene for over-exhaustion. The homeowner, who was thought to still be in the structure, thankfully made it out and is ok. (Tyler Pruett | Southern Torch)
By Tyler Pruett, Managing Editor
FORT PAYNE, Ala. — Last night (Sunday, April 23), at approximately 10:30 pm, emergency dispatch was notified of a structure fire on Sylvania Gap Road (County Road 27), a short distance from the city limits of Fort Payne. The neighbor that reported the blaze also notified dispatch that a resident was currently at home.
The Blake Volunteer Fire Department was the first to arrive on the scene, being located a short distance up the mountain on County Road 27 from the fire, with the Pine Ridge Volunteer Fire Department also responding. The structure stood on a hill, and posed a challenge to first responders, who were forced to drag hoses and equipment up the hill. The structure's location on the road in the sharp curves also necessitated caution when firefighters tackled the blaze.
"The house was fully involved when we arrived on the scene," said Blake VFD Chief Marlon Lands. "The spot in the road caused some difficulty, but at least the road isn't that busy that time of night."
Chief Lands explained that the Sylvania Fire Department and Pine Ridge Volunteer Fire Departments also assisted, and that deputies from the DeKalb County Sheriff's Office secured the roadway.
"Thank the good Lord nobody had any serious injuries," said Blake Fire Department Assistant Chief Jason Foster. "We thought the homeowner was still inside, so when our oxygen ran out, we continued on."
Foster said the combination of working uphill and running low on clean air led to 3 of the firefighters being treated at the scene for exhaustion, Foster being one of them.
"We were under the impression that he was still inside, so we were pushing it, we didn't want to give up" explained Foster.
The homeowner, Sam Palmer, had thankfully been awakened by the blaze, and made it out his bedroom window and into the yard behind the house.
"I felt my feet get hot, and that's when it woke me up," Palmer explained. "I crawled out of the window and passed out in the back yard."
When Blake VFD responded to the scene, they couldn't see Palmer in the back yard, as the driveway was located on the opposite side of the structure from Palmer, putting the blaze between himself and first responders. Electricity was also still active on that side of the house, creating further difficulty in locating Palmer.
While Palmer was later and fortunately located outside the structure and not inside, first responders pushed themselves to the max to ensure everything had been done to save a life; including push themselves to exhaustion and needing medical attention themselves.
The house was a total loss, with firefighters remaining on the scene until 2 pm. Palmer pointed out they have insurance, but he lamented the loss of things you can't replace. He also expressed his gratitude to the first responders and that he made it out ok.
"There's just so many personal things you can't replace," he explained.
"I'm just thankful I made it out alive." said Palmer.