FORT THOMAS, Ky. - Two Northern Kentucky firefighters required hospital treatment Monday after battling a Fort Thomas house fire in extreme heat conditions.
A Southgate firefighter sustained a twisted ankle and had heat-related issues. A member of the Fort Thomas Fire Department needed intravenous fluids later in the day.
A total of 45 firefighters from Fort Thomas, Newport, Bellevue-Dayton, Southgate and Wilder responded to the scene in the 90-degree weather.
“Had it not been for the heat, a couple of companies would have been able to handle this,” said Fort Thomas Fire Department Capt. Greg Schultz.
Firefighters were only able to stay inside the burning building for 10 minutes at a time before having to cool off. Temperatures there topped 1,000 degrees.
The cause hasn’t been determined. No damage estimate has been released.
The blaze was reported around 10:30 a.m. in a two-story residence on Indiana Avenue.
Members of the Carver family – three adults and two children – had been renting the house, but were in the process of moving.
Neighbor Catherine Amberg said she first knew there was a problem when her dog began barking and she saw someone banging on the window of the house on fire.
“I thought someone was inside because one of the vehicles was here and the guy works kind of odd hours,” she said. “We thought that maybe he was sleeping, so we were very concerned.”
However, nobody was home.
Capt. Schultz said the fire was so intense that it was difficult to get to the second floor and ventilate the roof.
“We were getting pretty near flashover,” he said. “In fact, we evacuated our guys from the building at one point in time because we just got uncomfortable that we were going to have a flashover.”
A flashover is a point where a fire gets so hot that everything within a room simultaneously ignites.
After taking their turns inside, firefighters pulled off their protective equipment, sat in shady areas, drank fluids and were checked by paramedics before being allowed to resume their duties.
According to Capt. Schultz, their core body temperature on the men was in the range of 105 to 110 degrees.
“That is why they’re getting worn down so quickly,” he said. “They’re nearing total exhaustion in 15 minutes and it takes an hour to get them back.”
Capt. Schultz said most firefighters want to push on get the job done, even if they’re tired.
That can cause problems.
“Fifty percent of the 110-120 firefighters that die every year die from cardiac or stroke issues because they pushed on when they shouldn’t have,” said Capt. Schultz.
Many Indiana Avenue residents gave water and ice to firefighters who were in the recovery area.
Amberg said she wasn’t surprised by those acts of kindness.
“We always take care of each other’s kids and help each other out whenever they need it,” she said. “It’s a good street to live on.”
Fort Thomas Police Lt. Rich Whitford called the residents “awesome.”
“They’re opening their doors for us,” he said. They’re bringing Gatorade, water and wet towels to try to help the firefighters.”
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