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Kentucky Power crews save family from fire

by on March 8, 2016
From left, Cody McKay, Paul Layne, Dave Sammons, Ryan Thornbury, Aaron Sanders and Myles Robinette dropped their work to rush to help a family whose home was threatened by a chimney fire. They said they were just glad they were able to help the elderly couple save their home. Photo by Bob Shurtleff.

(Story by Allison Barker)

Every year 2,500 people die in home fires. About 84 percent of those fires– some 27,000 — start in chimneys or fireplaces, according to the Chimney Safety Institute of America and the American Red Cross.

Eastern Kentucky residents Doris and Robert Lee feared they were destined to be among the latest homeowners to experience a fire. But thanks to the quick action of Kentucky Power crews working near the Lee home in Pond Creek on a recent February morning, the chimney fire threatening to engulf the entire home was snuffed out in minutes before it could spread.

Dave Sammons, Myles Robinette, Aaron Sanders, Ryan Thornbury, Paul Layne and Cody McKay made up three line crews from Pikeville working to repair downed wire near the Lees’ home Feb. 17.

“Aaron was up in one of the buckets when he saw flames coming out of the chimney, and Myles and I were walking down to the house. He yelled down for someone to call 911. And about that same time a woman came running out of the house screaming for help,” said Sammons, a line crew supervisor.

That’s when the six Kentucky Power workers put their training into action, Sammons said. Thornbury grabbed a fire extinguisher and got on the roof to try to put the fire out from above, while others went inside and pulled burning logs from the Buck stove and to help those inside escape safely. By the time the Elkhorn Volunteer Fire Department arrived, the fire was nearly out.

“We just put our work down and went to help,” Sanders said. “Everybody pitched in and we worked as a team.”

Fire Chief John Moore said their efforts saved the home.

“They were lucky those boys were there,” Moore said. “They did a real good job. They had that chimney fire out for the most part before we got there. It could have been a lot worse. It’s an old house and it could have burned to the ground by the time we got there. They were toward the end of our response area, about 4 ½ miles out, and old homes go up fairly quickly.”

Sammons said when they entered the house, it was full of smoke.

“The elder gentleman was on the couch and couldn’t move very well. He seemed really sick,” Sammons said. “Mrs. Lee told us she was sure glad we were there that day.”

Kentucky Power President and Chief Operating Officer [Greg Pauley] said he’s not surprised to hear that employees did not hesitate to help strangers in need.

“The actions of Dave, Myles, Aaron, Ryan, Paul and Cody exemplify what we stand for and who we strive to be at Kentucky Power,” Pauley said. “We all are incredibly proud of them for their heroic efforts. They are an inspiration to all of us.”

The Lees use their wood stove to help heat their home all winter long, Mrs. Lee said. The fire department found their metal chimney stove pipe was caked inside. The flammable creosote was nearly solid halfway up the pipe, which contributed to the fire, Chief Moore said.

The lesson, Sanders said, is to always be aware of your surroundings.

“I was surprised to see fire shooting out of the top of the chimney,” Sanders said. “I knew then something was wrong. None of us hesitated to help. We’d do it again.”

From → Safety

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