Pine Bluff firefighters responded to a fire in a two-story abandoned residence at 5619 West 9th Ave. on Friday afternoon. (Pine Bluff Commercial/William Harvey)
A two-story house at West Ninth Avenue and Dearborn Street was destroyed in a fire that was reported shortly after noon Friday, according to spokesman Lt. Harold Clark of the Pine Bluff Fire and Emergency Services Department.
Clark said the house, believed to have been vacant, was engulfed in flames when firefighters arrived. Four engines and a ladder truck responded. The ladder truck had to be employed for the firefighters to get the blaze under control. Firefighters required more than an hour to extinguish the fire, and some remained on the scene afterward to make certain it didn’t rekindle.
The cause of the fire wasn’t immediately known, and a fire marshal was still investigating late Friday afternoon.
No one was injured, Clark said, but several firefighters had to be relieved after suffering from heat exhaustion.
“No one was hospitalized,” Clark said, “but the outside temperature was 102 degrees, and you have to add that to the extra heat of the fire and the firefighters’ uniforms.”
Clark said that while firefighters are contesting blazes in such hot weather, efforts are made to help keep them hydrated by making sure they are given periodic breaks and have plenty of water to drink. However, bringing the fire under control was the initial priority, so the firefighters couldn’t initially be afforded cooling breaks.
Anyone with information on how the fire may have started is asked to telephone the fire department or police department, Clark said. Commercial records indicate the structure was also struck by fire on Feb. 28, when it was still occupied. No one was injured in that blaze either.
Clark asked that the public be reminded that it’s illegal to discharge fireworks within the city and that a burn ban is currently imposed because of hot and dry conditions. The entire state has an extreme risk of wildfires, and a number of destructive fires have been sparked by fireworks.
The Arkansas Forestry Commission reports that 12 wildfires occurred in the state on Thursday, with more than 220 acres being burned. One home was lost and 15 homes were threatened. Two outbuildings were lost and 11 outbuildings were threatened.
The AFC said open burnings shouldn’t be attempted. High winds and extended dry periods lead to extreme burning conditions. Open fires can quickly escape and are very difficult to control. Spot fires occur ahead of the main fire, and erratic burning conditions make fires difficult to control even for experienced firefighters.