Jesse Evans, Editor | Hempstead Herald

A Hempstead County family lost their home Wednesday night to a fire after firefighters initially had it under control and helped the family recover some of their property from inside.

Gary and Becky McDermott were were going through their nightly routine around 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 29 at their home at 154 Hempstead 184 when they first noticed smoke and called 911. Becky said she thought the fire started at their gas dryer because she was doing laundry after supper and it was the only thing running in the house. The cause has not been determined by investigators.

Becky said they went inside several times trying to recover important items but were repelled by the thick smoke that filled the house.

Hempstead County Sheriff’s Deputies were first on scene followed directly by the Crossroads Fire Department. Pafford EMS responded to standby in case of injury or smoke inhalation. Centerpoint Energy and Hope Water & Light also responded to the scene to shut off gas and electricity to the house.

The fire was contained at the time to the trailer house that had been attached to an existing structure. Firefighters attacked the fire from the front and rear of the house through windows until the flames were reduced enough they could enter the structure.

Due to the modification to combine the trailer and small wood-frame house, firefighters had a constant struggle to put the fire out. They would seem to have an area under control only to open up the walls and find fire inside. Crossroads firefighters put almost 8,000 gallons of water onto the fire before calling for more from Washington and Guernsey Fire Departments. Washington and Guernsey brought three more trucks to fill Crossroads’ pumper and tanker as well as firefighters to relieve those who had been fighting the fire for over two hours without relief.

Washington and Guernsey firefighters cleared the scene shortly after 11 p.m. and Crossroads firefighters cleared shortly after midnight after over four hours fighting the fire. Before clearing the scene, firefighters went through the house with a thermal imager to find any hot-spots not visible within the structure and put them out. They also helped the McDermotts recover medications, firearms, instruments, pictures and other belongings from the house.

Firefighters returned to their stations and refilled their oxygen tanks and their trucks with water and went home. They said they they got home around 1 a.m.

About 1 1/2 hours after clearing the scene, Crossroads was paged back out to the residence after the owner called 911 around 1:50 a.m. and said the fire flared back up. Deputies arrived on scene and notified dispatch that the house was fully engulfed.

Firefighters arrived back on the scene to find the house completely consumed by fire. They moved to prevent the fire from spreading to the neighboring property, keeping the fire contained to the ruins of the home.

The firefighters expressed amazement that the fire had spread throughout the entire house in such a short time after they cleared the scene since they had taken care of all the hot-spots they found with  the thermal imager and had put an extremely large amount of water on the fire during the first four hours on scene. Chief Steve Smith said that it’s not uncommon for fire to flare back up when a structure is as badly damaged as this one but he had not seen a flare up so quickly consume an entire structure, including areas previously untouched by the fire, in this manner.


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