|Polk County Enterprise - Local News
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Man suffers severe burns in Moscow barn fire Wednesday
BY VALERIE REDDELL
MOSCOW — Firefighters believe homeowner Keith Cater was working on a vehicle or equipment in or near the garage at this home on Sandy Lane in Moscow Wednesday night when something blew up and severely burned him, and ignited everything around him. Corrigan Volunteer Fire Department was the first on the scene and battled the blaze furiously. At 9 p.m. they called for assistance from Livingston, the Alabama-Coushatta Indian Reservation, Onalaska, Scenic Loop and Diboll. Livingston Fire Chief Corky Cochran said while 15 of LVFD's firefighters and much of its equipment was in Moscow, Goodrich and South Polk County stood by to cover the south end of Polk County. Scenic Loop dropped off an engine in Livingston to supplement the equipment. At Cater's residence the tractor continued to burn long after the rest of the fire had been put out. "The diesel fuel and rubber tires kept fueling the fire," firefighter Tommy Overstreet said. Corrigan crews staged a truck to cool the tractor with a steady stream of water until the diesel burned off. Onalaska crews were deployed around to the back of the garage to saw open the back door to allow teams to begin venting the fire from the back of the building. "One end of the building had been framed in to be used for an office or storage," Cochran said. "There was a lot of other equipment in there that contained flammable fuel. The structure was left standing but due to the extensive heat damage it was virtually destroyed." Three LVFD firefighters suffered minor injuries while fighting the fire. Assistant Chief John Haynes fell after he got hung up while fighting the fire. "I think he got caught up on some hose and came down hard on a rock or other hard object right on top of his knee. It's a really deep bruise, but we were afraid it was broken," Cochran said. Haynes and two other firemen also suffered minor burns when they entered the building. Cochran said the intense heat occasionally causes a steam burn on the face — despite their protective gear. This highly damaging Moscow came at the end of long string of minor fires for LVFD. Cochran said things hadn't slowed down enough for him to determine how busy the other fire departments in Polk County had been last week. Wednesday morning, LVFD crews were called out at 10:21 a.m. to wash down a fuel spill after a Ford Ranger and a Peterbuilt tractor-trailer collided on U.S. 59 north. They spent about a half-hour cleaning up the roadway from that crash. Later in the day, one fireman had to go out to Castlewood Road to check on a controlled burn the burning stumps set a pasture on fire. At 4:09 p.m. LVFD was called to Forest Springs for a brush fire. Four trucks and 13 firefighters responded. On the way, they assisted a motorist in a Jeep who collided with an 18-wheeler near the vet clinic on Hwy. 146. Surprisingly, the driver of the jeep said he was not injured, even though his vehicle was trapped under the trailer of the 18-wheeler. As soon as the fire was out in Forest Springs, LVFD was called to a yard fire at 2332 Providence Road. Three trucks and 13 men responded. Cochran urged Polk County residents to be extremely careful with outdoor activities. "Let good judgment prevail on outdoor burning," Cochran said. "We're in a very critical situation as dry as it is. We've had several calls. Some things result from something as simple as a cigarette on the side of the road." Ricky Holbrook, regional fire coordinator for Texas A&M Forest Service, said Thursday it will be up to Polk County Commissioners to decide when and if a burn ban is necessary. "We give the county judge the information and then the Commissioners Court votes on it," Holbrook said. "We're getting close, but it is up to them. We usually go by the KBDI (Keetch Byram Drought Index); it measures the soil moisture. Usually around 575 is good for the summer months. I think we're — in the middle to the south of Polk County — probably looking at close to 600 now. The Corrigan area may not be that much since they got that little rain last week. The lower (KBDI) is better; the higher it gets the more dry it is. With outdoor burning, it is dry and a lot of folks don't realize it. With these afternoon winds we've been getting that comes in off the gulf here lately about 7 p.m., it just gives us a little more of a problem.