5 Tulsa-area house fires displace families over Christmas holiday
BY AMANDA BLAND & JERRY WOFFORD World Staff Writer
Thursday, December 27, 2012
12/27/12 at 7:14 AM
At least five house fires in the Tulsa area this week have displaced families from their homes, an outcome that is especially difficult during the holidays.
In addition to a fire that spread to a neighboring house in Owasso on Christmas Eve, two - including one that briefly trapped firefighters - were reported on Christmas Day, and one fire displaced a family Wednesday.
Donita Quesnel, spokeswoman for the Tulsa Area Chapter of the American Red Cross, said she couldn't say whether this is a sharp increase in the number of house fires compared to previous years, but she noted that the number of house fires tends to spike during the holidays and when temperatures drop.
Two homes - one in Catoosa and one in Broken Arrow - sustained significant damage Tuesday, and one occupant was taken to a hospital, those cities' fire chiefs told the Tulsa World on Wednesday.
Residents called the Catoosa Fire Department to report a fire as they fled their home in the 20000 block of East 33rd Place North about 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, Fire Chief Denus Benton said.
Firefighters saw flames from the roof's north end as they neared the residence, which Benton described as two trailer houses that had been renovated into a single dwelling. A backdraft trapped rescue crews inside momentarily, but they were able to escape, he said.
One of about six people who had been in the house was hospitalized for smoke inhalation, Benton said.
The Oak Grove and Rolling Hills fire departments provided mutual aid, and one of their firefighters was treated at the scene for respiratory problems, he said.
Preliminary information indicates that the fire was accidental, but the investigation into its cause is ongoing. About 50 percent of the structure was destroyed, Benton said.
Neighbor Valorey Totten said the residents, the Berry family, ran out of their house in pajamas.
Ronald Berry is a well-known attorney who worked in town for decades, she said. His wife, their two daughters, a young granddaughter and a son-in-law lived in the home.
Totten and others combed through the wreckage seeking any salvageable possessions Wednesday. She said all of the family's Christmas presents were destroyed.
She described the family as despondent in the wake of the fire but grateful for their personal safety.
The American Red Cross assisted three residents of a Broken Arrow fire on Christmas Day, Fire Chief Jeff VanDolah said.
Firefighters worked about 20 minutes to contain the blaze on Pittsburg Street west of Elm Place (161st East Avenue).
The occupants were alerted to the fire by their doorbell, which rang repeatedly as the fire spread through the attic and caused an electrical short, VanDolah said.
Fire investigators are looking into the cause, which the chief described as undetermined but not suspicious.
The blaze consumed approximately half of the structure, but responders were able to save most of the home's possessions, he said. No one was injured.
Neighboring homes in Owasso were destroyed by a chimney fire that originated at one of the residences Monday.
The wind blew flames from one house to the other in the 8300 block of North 119th East Avenue just after 6 p.m., firefighters said. The American Red Cross reported that 18 people were displaced by the blaze.
A fire also displaced a family from its home in the 1400 block of North Union Avenue on Wednesday morning. No injuries were reported. The fire was still under investigation but appeared to have started in a wall and spread through the attic, Tulsa Fire Department Capt. Stan May said.
Being displaced from home during the holidays is especially difficult, Quesnel said.
"Any time a family is affected by a house fire or displaced, it's a devastating event for them," she said. "Especially during the holidays it can be more emotional.
"It's just a double hard time to be without."
Donita Quesnel, spokeswoman for the Tulsa-Area Chapter of the American Red Cross, said families affected by fire or other disasters receive free assistance, including temporary lodging, clothing and toiletries, immediately after the disaster. To provide that assistance, the organization depends on donations. To donate to the Red Cross, go to tulsaworld.com/tulsaredcross or call 918-831-1170.
Original Print Headline: House fires mar holidays
Amanda Bland 918-581-8413 Jerry Wofford 918-581-8310
Firefighters battle a house fire Wednesday in the 1400 block of North Union Avenue. MIKE SIMONS/Tulsa World
Ginger Beach (right) and Raymond Jackson salvage furniture from a burned home in Catoosa on Wednesday. The house caught fire on Christmas Day, and nearly everything inside was destroyed. MATT BARNARD/ Tulsa World
Steam rises from a firefighter's head as he works at a house fire in the 1400 block of North Union Avenue on Wednesday. No one was reported injured in the blaze. MIKE SIMONS/ Tulsa World