News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Local & Bistate

January 7, 2014

Fire strikes home of first responder

Crews battle intense cold

TERRE HAUTE — As smoke billowed through the roof of his home, Jonathan Stevens Sr. stood in sub-zero temperatures Tuesday morning and watched firefighters work to save his residence.

The home is in the 1900 block of West Belmont Drive in southern Vigo County.

Watching a fire is a position to which Stevens is not accustomed. As a West Terre Haute police officer and paramedic for Trans-Care Ambulance, he is usually the one helping others.

“I’ve never been the person on the other side of the scenario, you know,” Stevens said. “My family is out and they’re safe. That’s all that matters. We will get through it, “It is what it is.”

Stevens, who said he has insurance on the single-story home, said smoke detectors alerted him to the fire.

“I was in the front room. The detectors went off, I could see the smoke, and we got out of there. I just evacuated the house. Me, my wife and three kids,” he said. His wife took the children to a relative’s home.

The cause of the fire is likely a woodburning stove, said Josh Sittler, battalion chief for the Honey Creek Fire Department, whose firefighters were dispatched to the scene.

Sittler said Stevens noticed there was fire in the ceiling area. Sittler said a fire in an attic can burn for a while before being detected.

 “Most of the fire was contained to the attic, [but] there is major damage to the whole structure,” Sittler said. “Obviously with these weather conditions, we called in additional manpower. But also, it took a little longer to get here because of the road conditions.”

Honey Creek firefighters were dispatched at 10:04 a.m. and their first firefighting unit arrived at the house at 10:09 a.m., Sittler said. Firefighters from Riley, Sugar Creek, Seelyville and Prairieton departments assisted.

A water pool was set up, because the area has no fire hydrants.

Sittler said with subzero temperatures, people need to ensure that maintenance of furnaces and heating devices is up to date and that smoke detectors are working. “These types of fires can happen,” he said.

Kurt Brinegar, a Terre Haute police officer who lives near Stevens, noticed smoke coming from the house and came to help.

“This is horrible,” Brinegar said as firefighters continued their efforts at the nearby home. “[Stevens] is a nice guy. He told me he could hear the crackling of the fire inside the house as he was getting everybody out… . I came around the corner and saw the smoke. We got everybody out of the house, and two dogs,” Brinegar said.

Reporter Howard Greninger can be reached at 812-231-4204 or howard.

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