Firefighter injured in 'firefighter nightmare' at mobile home

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by Catherine Holland

Video report by Gibby Parra and Bruce Haffner, Fort McDowell Casino News Chopper

Posted on February 7, 2013 at 6:45 AM

Updated Thursday, Feb 14 at 10:08 AM

Map: Near Loop 202 and University

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MESA, Ariz. -- Firefighters were forced to go into defensive mode to deal with an early morning mobile home fire in the East Valley Thursday.

Rural/Metro fire crews arrived on the scene near Loop 202 Red Mountain and University Drive in an unincorporated area in the East Valley at about 3 a.m., just minutes after the 911 call was made. Flames and smoke were still visible from the news chopper four hours later.

Three people in the home, including a pregnant woman and a 3-year-old child, made it out safely. The family pets were saved, as well. Video from the scene showed a firefighter with a dog in his arms.

Aerial video from the Fort McDowell Casino News Chopper showed that the mobile home was nestled among several trees, which, in addition to providing more potential fuel for the flames, made access a challenge.

Firefighters aren't calling this a hoarding situation, but they said between the personal possessions and debris blocking their path and several add-ons that turned the home into a maze, it was extremely difficult -- and dangerous -- for them to do their jobs.

"This is a firefighter nightmare," Collin Williams of the Rural/Metro Fire Department said. "The fact that these people are out and they'll be assisted by the Red Cross, it's great news for them. It could be a much, much different situation out here."

One firefighter suffered minor injuries when he was shocked by an exposed wire before SRP cut the power to the home. That firefighter should be just fine.

Williams said there was no smoke detector activation in the mobile home. The homeowner Chrystal Castillo told 3TV's Gibby Parra that they had taken the batteries out of the units because they were dead. Her advice to other Valley residents is to check those batteries on a regular basis.

That's something firefighters say whenever the opportunity arises. In fact, they have said repeatedly that having working smoke detectors is the best thing you can do to save yourself and your family in case of a fire.

In the wake of a triple fatal fire over the weekend, firefighters on Monday once again pleaded with the public to make sure they have working smoke detectors in their homes.

"This is an example of where some people may have been able to get out of the home if they had had a little bit of early notification or warning," Phoenix Fire Capt. Johnathon Jacobs said of the weekend tragedy.

At this point, it's not known what sparked Thursday morning's fire, but Castillo, who is due to give birth to her second child in 18 days, has her suspicions.

"They still have to do their investigation, but I would say probably electrical," she said. "We'd had some issues in that room so that's what I would figure."

 

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