Russellville Fire Chief Billy Poole said both fires were some of the hottest he has experienced.
“The fires were so hot we had to send one of our firefighters – Terry Milam – to the hospital,” said Poole.
The city’s fire department was called out to the warehouse fire first at approximately 3 a.m. The warehouse, according to chief Poole, is owned by the Stuart family and served as storage to three occupants.
“This was a very explosive fire,” said Poole due to the flammable contents that were in the building. It took the fire department till dawn to put the fire out. While fighting the warehouse inferno, the department was called out to yet another fire at Winston Funeral Home soon after.
“I had to send our ladder truck because my two pumpers were hooked to hydrants trying to put out the warehouse,” said Poole who was not surprised when it got there it quit working.
The city’s ladder truck is over 20 years old and has been experiencing mechanical troubles for months now. Poole had attended recent city council meetings asking for a new one, but was told the city could not afford it and would have to rely on possible grants.
“When the ladder truck arrived, the firemen anchored the truck and attempted to lift the ladder so we could attack the fire from above, but it died and wouldn’t restart,” said a frustrated Poole, who at first thought there was someone in the funeral home at the time of the fire but later found out there was not.
Poole said the firefighters hooked the truck hoses up to a hydrant, but it did not supply as much water to the fire as the truck would have if it had worked properly.
“We had to wait on backup from Auburn and Adairville to help us knock this fire out,” said Poole.
It took Auburn 12 to 14 minutes to arrive on scene and then Adairville followed up.
“I am thankful for the fire departments who helped put out the fire we couldn’t have done it without them especially with a truck down,” said Poole.
Russellville Mayor Gene Zick called a special meeting Monday night to discuss purchasing a new ladder truck.
Both fires are being investigated by Detective Kenneth Edmonds of the Russellville Police Department who is working with a “person of interest” at this moment but has made no arrests yet.
Edmonds said he does know the fires had no connection to the 8th of August celebration that drew numerous out-of-towners to the community this past weekend.
Both structures were a total loss. The funeral home roof fell in as a result of the fire and the outer walls had to be pushed over to keep one from falling onto a nearby house and also for safety purposes.
Also responding to the fire was the Russellville Electric Plant Board and the Chaplains organization who kept firefighters supplied with water and Gatoraid.