The City of McCook Fire Department responded to a reported structure fire Friday night at 805 West 1st. First arriving law enforcement and fire department crews reported heavy smoke and fire coming from the 1 ½ structure home. No one was home at the time of the fire. Neighbors and passerby’s noticed heavy smoke and fire coming from the home and called 911. Firefighters were able to make entry into the home and extinguish most of the fire, however, due to the length of time the fire had been burning unnoticed, the structure was later determined to be unsafe for the firefighters to enter and all efforts of extinguishment were performed from the exterior. The Red Willow Western Rural Fire Department was requested for mutual aid and manpower. They were already at their station, just returning from a fire south of McCook.
The initial investigation determined that lightning was the cause of the fire. It appears that lightning entered the area on the south side of the house and went unnoticed for quite some time. This allowed the fire to spread into the upstairs area and into areas that were difficult to get water to for extinguishment. As firefighters worked on extinguishment, the roof became to unstable to work off of due to the rafters being burned out underneath. On the interior it was also deemed unsafe for firefighters as the fire and water was causing large sections of the ceiling to fall in. Both the structure and the contents were determined to be a total loss. Total loss estimate is $85,000. The home is owned by Sheri Bishop of McCook.
Firefighters were on the scene within minutes and faced heavy rain and lightning conditions. They spent approximately 3 ½ hours on the scene making sure the fire was extinguished. Firefighters did respond back to the residence a few hours later to make sure the fire was extinguished. A total of thirteen firefighters from the City of McCook and several from Red Willow Western Rural Fire Department along with two pumpers, one ladder truck, two ambulances, a quick response vehicle and a command vehicle responded to the scene.
At approximately 9:33 P.M. on Saturday evening, firefighters responded to another report of a fire at the same residence. Upon arrival of the fire department, flames were visible from the south part of the roof. Firefighters were forced to utilize large master streams from an aerial device and a ground monitor to extinguish the fire. Earlier, firefighters and law enforcement performed visual periodic drive-by inspections of the structure during the day on Saturday, with the last one approximately 40 minutes before the fire was reported. This fire presented several unique challenges to the fire department. From the beginning, we were at a deficit due to the fire burning unnoticed and spreading throughout the upper floor and attic. Once this happens, it creates several small fires in confined spaces that make it difficult to locate and extinguish. The normal process of extinguishing these hidden fires is to gain access either from the roof or from the interior. Obviously in this fire both means of access were inaccessible due to the additional risks in placed on our firefighters. These factors limit our ability to get a complete extinguishment without having to monitor the structure and watch for flare-ups and rekindling of the fire. The number one priority on all fires is life safety. This includes the lives of the homeowners or residents, the lives of the firefighters and the lives of the public within the area of the fire. Fire department and law enforcement personnel will continue to monitor the structure to make sure all of the hotspots are addressed.