EDGERTON — Five fire departments responded to a kitchen fire Monday morning, but one should have been able to handle it.
The problem, according to Edgerton Fire Chief Scott Blue, is a chronic shortage of staff.
Blue responded to the 911 call at 6:52 a.m., but the address was wrong.
“It came is as 624 S. Michigan St., but luckily it took us right by the fire at 224 S. Michigan St.,” he said.
His engine crew spotted the flames and stopped, “which was the most important thing since they had the water,” he said. Blue went across town to the original address to ensure there wasn’t a fire there as well, then returned.
“When I got there, heavy fire was showing out of the door, spreading up the overhang and roof,” he said. “We got it knocked down but didn’t have enough manpower to send in a crew.”
Firefighters from Bryan and Butler, Indiana, were already en route through automatic mutual aid and they pressed the attack as soon as they arrived but Blue also requested two more crews, from Florence Township and Hicksville.
“It pretty well gutted the kitchen and pantry and the rest of the house had heavy heat and smoke damage,” he said.
Blue estimated the total loss at $50,000. The cause remains under investigation by the state fire marshal’s office.
“The homeowner stated there was a gas leak,” he said. “She turned off the stove and started to walk away when she heard a small explosion and felt heat. When she turned around, flames erupted from behind it.”
No injuries were reported.
“It worked out good with the two extra departments because everybody’s in the same boat and short-handed,” he said.
Blue said it was a combination of “lower society because people just don’t want to volunteer any more” and increased training requirements mandated by the state. “More and more and more hours of training are required, but that’s a double-edged sword,” he said. “You need training to be a good firefighter but where can anybody find the time?
“EMS is in the same boat,” he said. “That’s why they’re fielding so many full-time squads. Volunteers just can’t keep up anymore.”