Volunteer firefighter injured while fighting Sunday blaze


A volunteer firefighter at Watson Chapel will require surgery after falling while battling a blaze Sunday at a house on Camden Cutoff Road.

Watson Chapel Volunteer Fire Department Chief Dave Henderson said Matthew Jones slipped on ice while trying to enter the house at 7416 Camden Cutoff Road, chipping a bone in his knee.

“He’s 19 or 20,” Henderson said about Jones. “You have to be 21 to drive one of our trucks (but Jones is old enough to be a firefighter). He’s been with us two-and-a-half or three years and is a good firefighter.”

No one from the family was injured in the fire.

Henderson said the house was fully engulfed when the first firefighters arrived and attempts to save the structure were unsuccessful.

“It was a total loss,” he said, adding that firefighters from Watson Chapel and the Highway 15 Volunteer Fire Department were on the scene for several hours after receiving the initial call.

Henderson said the owners of the house, James Varnell and his family, were not home at the time of the fire.

He said the single-story, wood frame house was “75 to 100 years old. The original owner, B. L. McEntire, was almost 100 when he died, and his son, who inherited the property also died.”

Henderson said the house was sold at auction to Varnell, who did extensive remodeling on the structure.

American Red Cross Arkansas spokeswoman Brigette Williams said Monday the Red Cross is “assisting the family with everything but shelter.”

She said the Red Cross has supplied Varnell, his wife and their two children, ages 3 and 4, with clothing, winter clothing and necessities.

Williams said the family indicated they would be staying with relatives in the area, and Henderson said Varnell’s brother, John, has a house a short distance from where the fire was reported.

John Varnell said his brother was duck hunting and his brother’s wife had gone to church when the fire broke out. He praised the efforts of the volunteer firefighters from Watson Chapel and Highway 15.

“They put their hearts and souls into trying to save the house,” John Varnell said Monday. “They don’t get enough credit for what they do and I just want to thank them for all their efforts.

“We as a family are blessed to have no injuries, just a loss of property,” John Varnell said. “But no words can describe how blessed we are in the Watson Chapel area to have guys and gals like these people who risk it to try and help people.”