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Raging fire destroys Hays home

7/20/2012

By DIANE GASPER-O’BRIEN

By DIANE GASPER-O’BRIEN

dobrien@dailynews.net

The state fire marshal was in Hays Saturday, just hours after fire destroyed a Hays residence.

Firefighters answered a call at about 7 p.m. Friday for a fire just a block and a half from their station at the corner of 16th and Main.

By the time firefighters reached the scene, the west side of the home of Henry and Michelle Wiesner, 105 E. 15th, was ablaze. No one was at home when the fire broke out.

“When someone is in a building and a fire breaks out, someone calls for help right away,” Hays Fire Chief Gary Brown said. “But if no one is there, a fire can have a lot of energy and hit the explosive phase really quickly, before anyone even reports it. Where a fire has a chance to grow is when it’s undetected.”

The cause or origin of the fire was not yet known Saturday, said Hays Police Detective Dave Bunger, who was working the incident.

“We are working with the (Hays) fire department and the state fire marshal in the investigation,” Bunger said.

Friday’s fire took more water, and effort, than the average building fire, Brown said.

“Our normal line is 150 gallons of water a minute,” he said, “and our first five guys there were pumping 1,300 gallons a minute.”

By comparison, Brown said that his fire department responded to 16 building fires last year and “they were all one-line fires or it was out when we arrived. This one had a good foothold by the time we got there.”

The local fire department took five trucks to the scene, and Hays firefighters received help from Victoria, Ellis and the Ellis County Rural Fire Department. They sprayed the structure with water from several different angles, including from an aerial ladder in order to reach over the large trees surrounding the house.

“We really appreciate our (fire department) neighbors trying to help sustain the operation,” Brown said.

A total of 22 firefighters from Hays responded, and the three area departments added 13 more.

“It was 102 degrees at the time,” Brown said, “and with all the gear, (firefighters) can only work so long. It doesn’t take long to take a toll on you, and we needed to rotate people a lot quicker than we normally do, so we went through them pretty fast.”

Cotty Seitz-Miles, the Wiesners’ next-door neighbor to the west, said she heard about the fire on her scanner.

“I had my scanner on and heard ‘Fire on West 15th’ and ‘block off Main Street,’ and I thought, ‘That’s me,’ so I came outside to see what was going on,” Seitz-Miles said. “Then I started calling my kids.”

Two of Seitz-Miles’ daughters arrived shortly, and they all watched, along with numerous bystanders, as firefighters tried to contain the blaze.

“When you go out, you look at the volume of the fire that’s there, and there is a list of priorities,” Brown said. “The building was very heavily involved when we got there, so our priorities were to cool things down on that building and to keep the fire from spreading to other buildings.”

Brown credited all emergency personnel involved for a team effort in succeeding in doing just that.

He said that only one other residence, a house directly to the east of the Wiesner home, sustained “minor radiant heat damage.”

Hays police directed traffic, blocked off several streets and kept bystanders at bay. Emergency Medical Services arrived on the scene immediately, as did the Ellis County Rehab Unit, a volunteer group established by two local paramedics that helps out in emergency situations.

“We appreciate so much what they all were doing, looking out for our people,” Brown said. “The Rehab Unit was handing out drinks and wet cloths, really helping out a lot. I’m proud of our firefighters, and thankful to everyone who helped.”