Doublewide Burns, Firefighters Barred By Flood Waters

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A doublewide trailer home was lost to flames Wednesday night after flood waters kept the firefighters from reaching the scene.

The home was on the 1400 block of Route 56, near Carbondale in Waterloo Twp., but floodwaters had blocked the only road and foot path to get to the property.

The home was engulfed in flames and firefighters watched from across the water, according to Waterloo Volunteer Fire Department Chief Craig Churchheus.

“You want to help with every fiber of your being,” Churchheus said.

In a post on the fire department’s Facebook page, the chief wrote, “This was the hardest call I’ve ever had to make! Swift flood water across the driveway with no way around and a foot bridge in the middle of that water somewhere that would not hold the weight of a truck.”

“Risk a little to save a little, risk a lot to save a lot sounds easy til it’s on you to decide! Great (nod) to my firefighters I know you were willing to do anything but watch,” he added.

Athens County Emergency Medical Services Chief Rick Callebs supported Churchheus’ decision with a note on the page.

“You made the right call. An entire engine company of firefighters could have been killed trying to access that fire.

Swift moving cold water of an unknown depth in the darkness of night is no place for structural firefighting gear including rubber boots that quickly fill with water and an air tank on your back. Hypothermia.

Personal Injury. Danger of electrocution. Drowning. Lots of unusual hazards here to consider before taking action. Property can be replaced, human life can not. The wrong decision by the officer in charge could have resulted in a whole bunch of firefighters being injured or killed.”

The home was being rented, but the renters had lived in the home for a number of years, and knew it was prone to flooding, Churchheus said.

“They leave when the water gets high,” he said.

Neighbors reported seeing the tenants leave earlier Wednesday as the rains continued.

The home was a total loss, but a cause has not been determined, according to officials.

The State Fire Marshal’s Office went to the residence Thursday morning to investigate the fire, but have yet to release any information on it.

A nearby home also incurred heat damage, but no one in that home was injured either.

According to the Ohio Department of Transportation, Route 56 was still closed as of Thursday afternoon due to flooding.