Firefighter injured in mobile home fire, 3 dogs missing


by Catherine Holland

Video report by Yetta Gibson

Posted on May 2, 2013 at 7:32 AM

Updated Wednesday, Oct 30 at 7:19 AM

Map: Southern & Ellsworth

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MESA, Ariz. -- A Valley couple owes their lives to a smoke detector after an early morning fire tore through their mobile home on a county island near Mesa Thursday. One firefighter was injured battling the blaze.

The huge plume of smoke pouring off the double-wide trailer near Southern Avenue and Ellsworth Road was visible for miles.

Aerial video from the scene showed flames ripping through the home, spreading to nearby trees and threatening at least one neighboring home.

Trailers in mobile home parks are generally situated quite close to each other, which can make things tricky for firefighters. But that wasn't the only issue facing fire crews, who were on the scene less than six minutes after receiving the call.

"What I'm looking at right now is another firefighter nightmare, which is bars on all of the windows and across the front door," Rural Metro spokesman Colin Williams said minutes after arriving on the scene.

The home was fully engulfed in flames by the time crews got there. That forced them to go defensive immediately and kept them from ever going inside.

Neighbors said the flames were incredible.

"We came outside and it [the home] was engulfed," the woman who lives next door said. "It looked like it had been burning longer than a couple of minutes."

Another neighbor was sure she was going to lose her house.

"I literally thought my house was going to go, too. It was really, really bad," Eva Sheppard said, explaining that she used her garden hose to douse flames licking at the palm trees in her yard. "Very scary. I woke up crying, 'cause I did think my house was going to burn down."

Significant winds fanned the already fast-moving flames.

"I can't believe how windy the conditions are," Williams said. "No doubt that's definitely helped spread this fire."

It should be a good reminder for everybody to take a moment this morning to check their smoke detectors.

- Colin Williams, Rural Metro Fire Dept.

Crews were still doing mop-up work nearly three hours after arriving on the scene.

"Anything we don't physically put out with a lot of water is going to spread," Williams said, explaining how the wind complicated an already difficult situation.

Despite everything working against them, firefighters were able to contain the bulk of the flames to the one home.

A neighbor's cargo trailer was destroyed, but crews saved the residence.

The home where the fire started, however, burned to the ground. The fire destroyed two cars and quite a bit of vegetation, as well.

According to Williams, the homeowners, both of whom are reportedly in their 70s, were already awake and in the front part of the trailer when the fire started. Their smoke detector went off, alerting them to the smoke building in the back of their trailer and giving them just enough time to escape. Their three dogs, however, are missing.

One firefighter was injured.

"Sheet metal from the wall or from the ceiling actually came down, slicing through his glove and going all the way to the bone in his hand, so right in the palm of his hand," Williams said.

That firefighter was taken to a local hospital to get stitches. He is expected to recover.

Williams said this morning's fire is a perfect example of how smoke detectors save lives.

"It should be a good reminder for everybody to take a moment this morning to check their smoke detectors," he said.

Firefighters all over the country consistently say that having working smoke detectors is the best thing people can do to keep themselves and their families safe when it comes to house fires.

The cause of Thursday morning's fire is under investigation.