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Busy week not new for EVFD

January 26, 2011
Last week proved to be a busy one for the English Volunteer Fire Department. The department fought a fire at a church, another fire at a mobile home and carbon monoxide build-up in a home near Eckerty, all just hours apart.

The Good News Church of English burned Jan. 17. It was the first of three calls that the English Volunteer Fire Department responded to just hours apart of each other. Photo by Lee Cable
On Jan. 17, the department responded to a report of a fire at the Good News Church of English at 1465 E. Temple Road. When firefighters arrived, they discovered flames near the roof and heavy smoke coming from the roof and eaves. They had one engine and a tanker, and the Marengo Liberty Volunteer Fire Department responded with a tanker.

"It looks like the fire started at the rear of the building," said Mike Benham, assistant chief at English. "They had one of those older-type heat pumps, one that used LP gas, a forced air unit. The unit malfunctioned, overheated and caught on fire. It was sitting close to the building and caught the structure on fire and quickly spread upward towards the roof. There was vinyl siding on the building and the fire went right up the wall to the attic. It was really difficult to completely extinguish."

The department was called back to the building the following morning due to smoke being observed and found a small fire had rekindled in some insulation in one of the walls. The firefighters extinguished the fire and monitored the scene about an hour before leaving.

"It looks like the church is a total loss," Joe Saltz, the church's pastor for the last 10 years, said. "We just completed remodeling the building last year. We haven't completely decided yet, but there's a good possibility we will rebuild."

Saltz said the church was built about 40 to 45 years ago.

After leaving the church fire at about 9:45 that evening, the department was called to another fire at about 1 a.m. at 5818 W. Patoka School Road.

A mobile home, owned by Ronald Crews, 72, was in flames when firefighters arrived. Crews, whom firefighters said had health issues, was found about 300 feet away, in the area of another fire. According to reports, Crews was in a pickup truck. He was taken to University Hospital and Medical Center in Louisville, suffering from smoke inhalation. An investigation is still ongoing.

While the firefighters were still dealing with the mobile home fire, they were called to 2219 N. Williams Ridge Road. A strong odor of gas had been reported, and there was a woman and two children in the residence. Firefighters reported the two children had already passed out.

"We soon discovered that it wasn't a gas leak but a build-up of carbon monoxide," Benham said. "We believe there was a crack in the furnace, or, because of a build-up of snow on the roof that covered the vent, the fumes were trapped in the house. The exact cause still hasn't been determined.

"But it was just one of those nights. The ambulance broke down before it got there, but we were able to get the mother and two children to the Bloomington Hospital in Paoli. The Crawford County Sheriff's Department, Celestine Fire Department, the Dubois and Jasper Ambulance Service and the Crawford County ambulance helped out."

According to fire department records, the English Volunteer Fire Department had 363 runs during 2010, but the majority of those runs were not fire related. The department made 24 runs to fires in dwellings, mobile homes, farms and commercial structures. It made 15 runs to vehicle fires and 21 runs to grass and brush fires. The department made 42 automobile crash rescue/extrication runs and seven weather-related runs. It also made runs to four spills, three runs to assist police and traffic and 29 runs that were false alarms. Of the 363 total runs, 218 were to assist the county ambulance service with lifting patients.

In 1995, the department made 83 runs. It has seen an increase in total runs each year since. By 2004, those runs exceeded 300. In 2009, there were 352 runs, with 211 of those made to assist with lifting patients.

"The increase in runs every year is really costing us," Benham said. "In 2005, when our runs were up to 291, we had to pay $6,000 more in insurance just because we were making such a high number of runs. And they just keep increasing every year.

"And our guys are volunteers; they don't get paid, they furnish their own fuel to get to the firehouse and many have to leave work to respond. So, being called out that often is not only a huge expense, but it wears on those who still have to make a living. And our budget is not getting any bigger, even though the costs of operating the department keeps growing."

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