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By Carmen Ensinger
It took the Carrollton Fire Protection District more than seven hours to get a rural fire under control last week in an unincorporated area of Greene County known as Spankey.
“Spankey is located in the southern tip of Greene County and it took our department about 18 minutes to get there,” Carrollton Fire Protection District Fire Chief Tim Thaxton said. “There really was no good way to get there and Eldred was the closest place we could go to get water and we ended up draining their water tower before we could even bring it under control.”
Thaxton said the Fire Department received the fire call at approximately 10:30 a.m. on Monday to the home of twins Lonnie and Ronnie Busch who live at 205 Spankey Road.
“By the time we got there, the one-story structure was already fully involved,” Thaxton said. “It was obvious that we were on a defensive fight from the moment we got there. We were never able to gain entry to the home and I would say it was a good seven or eight hours before we could ever bring it under control. It was 10 hours before we were able to go back into service.”
Thaxton said the Busch brothers were hunters and had a large store of ammunition stored in the home which was going off when they arrived.
“It was popping off pretty good when we arrived,” he said. “Kind of sounded like kids playing with fire crackers.”
The home itself was an old wood frame home that had been clad over with metal siding and a metal roof.
“There are a lot of homes with metal roofs and when they catch on fire they are hard to get water through and they hold heat,” Thaxton said. “The metal holds the heat in so they burn really hot and really fast.”
To make matters worse, there was a large propane tank at the back of the house that the fire had reached. Thaxton explained that tanks are built in a way that they don’t usually explode these days.
“The propane tanks have a valve on top that relieves the pressure in an event like this,” he said. “The valve releases burnable gas so it was putting up a pretty good fireball in the area when we drove up. I could see it over the roof of the building so I would say it was 40 to 50 feet tall.”
The fire quickly spread to the semi-attached garage, which Thaxton said was located not two feet away from the house.
“There was a very small area between the two buildings so the fire went right from the house to this garage,” he said. “The garage was about 60 foot long so there was a big fire as well. The building directly behind it came very close to catching fire as it was hot and smoldering but we were able to keep it from igniting.”
The heat of the fire caught the road bank across the road on fire as well.
“The house set up right next to the road and caught the bank on fire across the road and it went across the field there north of it and got right up to some timber,” Thaxton said. “But we had a small truck there and they were able to go there and put it out pretty quickly.”
The smoke and fire could be seen for miles.
“We requested mutual aid from White Hall and Jerseyville, which were the two closest departments and when White Hall left they said they could see the fire,” Thaxton said. “We could see the smoke at the edge of Carrollton when we pulled out.”
All in all, Thaxton said he had eight trucks on the scene, including two pumpers from Carrollton, three tankers from Carrollton, a pumper and tanker from Jerseyville and a pumper and tanker from White Hall.
“It was a good 18 minute trip from the firehouse to the scene and there is just no good way to get water to fight the fire,” Thaxton said. “Unfortunately, we drained their water tank and they were forced to go under a boil order.”
Thaxton said because of the rural nature of the fire and because water had to be brought in, he requested mutual aid from both White Hall and Jerseyville, the two closest departments.