McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

October 25, 2012

Back to back fires hit McAlester

By Rachel Petersen
Staff Writer

McALESTER — McAlester firefighters were battling one house fire when called to a second Wednesday afternoon.

At approximately 3:40 p.m., reports of a house fire on West Adams Avenue came in and, when firefighters arrived at the scene, the home was fully engulfed in flames.

While working to put out the flames on West Adams, firefighters were called about a second fire on West Madison Avenue.

McAlester Fire Chief Brett Brewer said Wednesday that it is possible that embers from the Adams Avenue house fire may have landed on the Madison Avenue home, catching it on fire. “We don’t know for sure though,” Brewer said. “It could have been that or it could be a completely unrelated incident. We’ll know more when we can look into it.”

Brewer said he had firemen at the scene of the first fire when the call came in regarding the second fire, just a couple blocks away. “When we got here (flames) had already been at the back of the house and in the attic,” Brewer said.

When firefighters were at the scene of the second fire, yet another call came in and a few firemen could be seen rushing away from the scene. “They went to a smoke alarm call” on West Taylor Avenue, Brewer said. When asked if the smoke alarm could have activated due to the smoke in the air from the two fires, Brewer answered, “It could have. Or it could have simply been that the batteries needed to be replaced.”

City Manager Pete Stasiak was on the scene at both fires. “We were in a meeting,” Stasiak said. “I was with the chief and I came out here with him to watch our guys and see that they are safe.” Stasiak and Brewer were attending a 911 Advisory Board meeting when the first fire call came in.

Also at the scene of the Madison Avenue fire was William Gay Early Childhood Center Principal Venessa Cummings. “I heard the sirens and saw the smoke,” Cummings said. “I came over to make sure (the fire) doesn’t spread to the school. I really wanted to make sure this wasn’t one of my kids’ homes. And its not.”

The owner of the Madison Avenue home showed up on the scene when firefighters were still working to squelch the flames in his home. “I was working,” Danny Ludlam said. “My boss called me — my neighbors had called him and told him about the fire — I was bringing a BigMack truck in from Hartshorne.” Ludlam said when he found out that his house was on fire, he rushed right over. While speaking with the News-Capital, Ludlam was asked by a woman, “What happened?”

Ludlam responded, “That house over there — that was supposed to be torn down — caught fire,” referring to the Adams Avenue home. “Some embers or ash or something from that fire blew over and caught my house on fire.”

According to Brewer, the call for the Adams Avenue fire came it an 3:39 p.m. and first responders arrived at the scene at 3:41 p.m. The call for the Madison Avenue fire came in at 4:25 p.m. and firefighters arrived at the same time, Brewer said.

Three engines, two ambulances and one MFD staff vehicle were on the scene of both fires, Brewer said. There were 10 firefighters who responded to the first fire and 22 on the scene at the second. “By the time we were called to the second fire,” Brewer said, “all of our callbacks (firefighters called back in to work) had arrived.”

There were no injuries reported as a result of the blazes, Brewer said. In referring to the first fire, on Adams, Brewer said, “Upon our arrival the structure was completely involved (in flames) and partially collapsed. This house here, they had actually already started tearing it down.” Brewer said the Adams house was vacant and no cost damage was listed due to the fact that it was already being torn down. “It is a total loss,” Brewer said.

The home on Madison Avenue was occupied, Brewer said, “but none of the residents were home when the fire started.” Brewer said the estimated cost damage on the second fire is approximately $20,000.

The cause of both fires is still under investigation by the fire marshal, Brewer said.

Contact Rachel Petersen at

For more on this story, see the print or electronic editions of the McAlester News-Capital. Click here for print edition home delivery or click here to see the Smart Edition for your computer, tablet, e-reader or smart phone.