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House fire serves as safety reminder

November 28, 2018

Divide Rd fire 2
Second District Volunteer Fire Department firefighters work on an early morning residential fire on Divide Road in Mountain City, Monday. According to officials the fire started in the kitchen or dining area. Thanks to the speedy response of the local fire units, the flames were quickly brought under control sparing most of the home and mainly causing water and smoke damage. Photo by Tamas Mondovics

Update: Two adults and four children previously stayed in this residence. Further information will be provided as it becomes available.

By Tamas Mondovics

On Monday, November 26, at around 9 a.m. Johnson County volunteer firefighters responded to a call of a structure fire on  Divide Rd, just outside Mountain City. While no one was hurt, the smoke and water damage to the home was extensive. Sadly, at least for a while, a young mother and a toddler will have to find another place to call home. Of course, the incident could have been worse. According to Second District firefighter Lieutenant Brett Hibberts, the fire that likely originated in the kitchen or living room area was quickly contained thanks to the two volunteer units’ speedy response.

The call was the second structure-fire call of the same morning and a sobering reminder of the importance of fire safety, especially during the holidays. Hibberts emphasized that electrical issues, chimney and Christmas tree fires are on the top of the list.

“Never plug a portable heater into a multi-outlet,” he said.

Holiday Fire Safety 7
A firefighter ready for action as a Christmas tree goes up in flames within seconds during a recent fire safety demonstration event that drew attention to the need to be safety conscious especially during the holidays. Photo by Tamas Mondovics

Once the spark was struck, during a recent holiday fire-safety-demonstration event, the flames fully engulfed and burnt a mid-size Christmas tree to a crisp within seconds. The demonstration was designed to educate residents while featuring the proper use of fire extinguishers, space heaters, the need of smoke and CO alarms, Christmas tree and holiday lights safety as well as cooking safely, including turkey frying.

Hibberts mentioned that fire prevention is a top priority for all fire departments. To better serve residents the region’s volunteer departments are always collaborating with a unified message to keep families safe throughout the holiday season and beyond.

“We are all in it together to protect the community,” Hibberts said.

Aside from burning candles, the use of the fireplace, or Christmas tree light decoration, fire danger often surrounds the kitchen. Officials are urging residents to never use oil or grease fryer in, or under, a garage, breezeway, carport, porch, deck or any other structure that can catch fire.

“Frying a turkey takes extra safety measures,” Hibberts said, adding, “Make sure that the turkey is completely thawed, and that the oil does not exceed the required temperature, which in most cases is about 350 degrees Fahrenheit.”

Keeping children and pets away from the cooking area was a visible tip, during the fire safety demonstration as the frozen bird was dropped into the overheated oil, which quickly fired back, literally. Christmas tree safety tips include the replacing of broken bulbs, damaged cords, adding water to the tree stand daily, not blocking any exit or entryways, as well as the setting up a tree at least three feet away from any heat source.

“One in three Christmas tree fires are caused by electrical problems,” Hibberts said, adding, “This should be the most festive time of the year, and we are working hard to make sure that it doesn’t end in tragedy.”

The second district volunteer fire department is hosting its biggest fundraiser of the year selling Christmas trees on US 421 across the Pioneer Village Plaza. Hibberts hoped to convey a reminder that area fire departments all operate voluntarily and function based on community support. The more the department is supported, the better the service they can offer.

For a full list of safety tips, visit