Catastrophe averted in Pinewood Place Apartments fire

Jennifer Stultz
Pratt Tribune
City of Pratt Fire Chiefs George Stevens and David Kramer, and firefighter Josh Stahl position a ladder at Pinewood Place Apartments during the departments response to a fire there last Tuesday.

At about 12:20 a.m. on Tuesday, October 6, Shawn McIntosh, who lives at Pinewood Place Apartments, 414 S. Howard St. in Pratt, started smelling something like burnt rubber.

"I didn't know what it was, but it was pretty strong so I called 911," said McIntosh.

According to City of Pratt Fire Chief David Kramer, that call, and a quick response by Pratt firefighters averted what could have been a catastrophe last week.

"When we arrived on the scene there was heavy fire coming from the upper back deck on the top apartment on the north-east corner of the building," Kramer said. "We started using a hose to knock it down, but very quickly saw that it had gotten into the attic. Our guys did a great job of going up there and getting that fire put out. We were just a few minutes from what could have been a complete catastrophe. As it was there were only three apartments that were damaged."

McIntosh said that the two city policemen who arrived minutes after his initial phone call were responsible for getting most of the residents of the apartment complex up and out of the building.

"They were going door-to-door getting people out. Me, I grabbed my face mask and my cell phone and got out of there," McIntosh said.

He said that he and most of the other 20-or-20 residents of the complex watched the firefighters from the parking lot during the incident.

"I was glad I made that call," McIntosh said. "But the firefighters were very good at what they did. I am thankful for them."

Kramer said the state fire marshall was called to the scene to help determine the cause of the fire, which was pinpointed to have started on the back deck of apartment #12, but clues were few and far between.

"They brought out a special dog to help find the cause, but it was determined inconclusive because there just wasn't anything to help us figure out what started it."

Kramer said the individual who lived in the apartment attached to the back deck where the fire was determined to have begun was not home at the time of the blaze.

"She met with us at the law enforcement office the next morning and we did find out that she had a corn plant on the back deck, and there was a small possibility that a discarded cigarette butt could have started burning in that plant pot," Kramer said. "But there has not been an official finding of that cause."

Kramer did state that most people are unaware of how long a cigarette butt can stay lit, even when there is no outside evidence of smoke or flame.

"We had some gusty breezes that night," he said. "It is just possible that it fell just right, a breeze puffed it up for just a second, and the leaves of that dried corn plant may have caught fire. We just don't know for sure. It was most likely some sort of combustible situation."

Kramer said the fire department crew was able to isolate the electricity to the three apartments affected by the fire. One was a total loss, a second apartment (just below the one with the most fire damage) had water damage and the third (next door) was damaged when firefighters pulled down ceiling panels and walls to get to the fire in the attic.

Most residents were able to go back to their own apartments that night yet, and the Red Cross is helping those who had damage that impacted their living conditions.

Also in October, the City of Pratt Fire Department was called out to put out a stump and grass fire on October 5 at the American Legion, check a CO2 meter and hot water heater on October 8 on Eastland Avenue, and to deal with a trash and small grass fire at Lemon Park on October 9.

Kramer said there were no fires related to gusty winds that blew through in front of a dry, cold front on Sunday evening, October 11 in Pratt.