It was a busy weekend for St. Clair Fire Protection District firefighters who were on duty for their 24-hour shift that began at 6 a.m. on Saturday as two residential blazes caused crews to be on scenes for about 5 1/2 hours.
The pair of fires were reported at 5:40 p.m. on Saturday at 2800 Mill Hill Road east of St. Clair and at 2:49 a.m. on Sunday at 382 Perkins Road west of the city. No one was home at either location, and no firefighters were injured while battling the blazes.
“It’s not a real common occurrence to have two fires like that during one shift,” interim St. Clair Fire Chief Mike Kelley said on Monday. “It’s pretty rare to have back-to-back fires like that, especially when the same shift had to respond to both.”
The fires don’t appear to be connected in any way. Kelley said the Perkins Road blaze “is suspicious in nature,” but doesn’t look to be related to the manufacturing of methamphetamine. The Mill Hill Road fire appears to be accidental.
Mill Hill Road
When firefighters first arrived at 2800 Mill Hill Road, smoke was bellowing out of the home from the vents near the roofline. No flames were visible from the outside, but a crackling sound could be heard coming from the inside.
A passerby saw the smoke and called 911, a Franklin County Sheriff’s Office deputy said at the scene Saturday evening.
The call originally came in for a fire at 2806 Mill Hill Road, but that address is for the home behind the structure on fire. The nearby home sustained no damage.
The outside wood-and-stone structure actually was built over an older mobile home, and a four-car garage was attached to the side. Firefighters on the scene did not know about the mobile home underneath the wood framing until they entered the structure and climbed onto the roof in order to ventilate it.
When the home was entered and ventilated, flames poured out.
“It was a floor-to-ceiling column of fire like a chimney,” Kelley told The Missourian. “It was coming from underneath the floor of the home. It looks like it started there.”
Kelley said the mobile home was up on stilts underneath the outside shell because the area is known to flood.
The location of the home is near Bruns Bridge, which spans the Meramec River.
Nine trucks and 18 St. Clair firefighters were on the scene as were personnel from Cedar Hill, Pacific and Boles. It took about 30 to 45 minutes to bring the blaze under control, Kelley said. Crews remained on the scene until about 8 p.m.
“We can’t find anything that wouldn’t be ruled accidental,” Kelley said. “We can’t find anything suspicious.”
The interim chief said an electrical short or even a lightning strike could have caused the fire.
Kelley said the neighbor at 2806 Mill Hill Road told him an earlier storm had caused a power outage in the area.
“After the power came back on, it was less than an hour later when the smoke was noticed,” Kelley said. “That could have caused some kind of short, but we don’t know for sure.”
The fire damage was limited to the home. Vehicles in the garage sustained some heat and smoke damage.
Firefighters found the modular home at 382 Perkins Road engulfed in flames when they arrived shortly after 3 a.m.
“There was fire through the roof,” Kelley said.
A deck gun first was used to knock down the fire. Hand lines then were used to bring the blaze under control, which took about 20 to 30 minutes after the initial arrival.
Personnel were on the scene until about 5:50 a.m., or 10 minutes before the scheduled end of their 24-hour shift.
“They were ready to go home,” Kelley said.
In all, 17 St. Clair firefighters manning eight units were on the scene as was a Sullivan truck and manpower.
The original call came in at 416 Perkins Road, but that address later was changed to 382. Perkins Road is between Dry Branch Road and Westwood Road.
The home was unoccupied at the time of the fire. A neighbor smelled and saw smoke and called it in.
“This one is suspicious,” Kelley said. “There were no obvious signs of meth manufacturing, however.”
The fire remains under investigation.