An electric heater and fireplace were suspected causes of separate fires Wednesday that destroyed a home on Cool Springs Road and damaged a group home on Fifth Avenue in Moultrie.
Volunteer firefighters from six departments fought the blaze at the 315 Cool Springs Road residence of Herbert Whaley for more than six hours on Wednesday night and spent another two hours there Thursday morning putting out hot spots.
The home was leveled, but no injuries were reported and out buildings near the home were saved, said Northside Volunteer Fire Chief Glen Garner.
Whaley and his wife heard popping and crackling sounds before realizing the large house was on fire. The cause of the blaze had not been determined.
“There was some talk, possibly, something about the fireplace or stove,” Garner said. “They were home. I don’t think either of them saw what started the fire.”
The fire apparently started at the north end of the house, he said.
“It was pretty much a total loss,” he said. “It was pretty much some construction that was done way before we had zoning. It was an older house that had been added onto over the years.
“It had a tin roof. When tin falls down, it makes it almost impossible to fight the fire because you can’t hardly get around that tin.”
Firefighters from Northside were joined initially by Culbertson and Norman Park volunteers as the primary agencies. Garner said the call came in at around 7:30 p.m. and finished up at the fire station at about 3 a.m.
Ellenton, Southside and Westside were enlisted to help run water tankers to the site.
“It took a lot of water to put it out,” Garner said. “The estimate was 60,000 to 70,000 gallons of water.”
Firefighters used an additional 3,000 or so gallons on Thursday while putting out hot spots.
At about 3:45 p.m.. Wednesday, the Moultrie Fire Department responded to the Turning Point Home for Men at 515 Fifth Ave. S.E., where a fire had spread from a downstairs bedroom to another bedroom and attic above, agency reports said.
Officials suspect that a bed was pushed against the plug of a space heater at a wall socket, causing an electrical arc that caught bedding and blankets on fire to start the blaze. From the downstairs bedroom of the two-story building flames traveled up the wall to the bedroom and attic above.
The good news was that out of 11 occupants, no one was injured, said Lt. Justin Cox, the department’s fire investigator. Turning Point is making other arrangements for the men.
Fire officials urged residents to take precautions when using heat, especially space heaters and open flames such as fireplaces.
Extension cords should never be used with electric space heaters. They also should be kept a safe distance from flammable materials.
“Make sure to have the proper tip-over switches,” Cox said.
Homeowners also should have chimneys inspected and they should be cleaned every year, he said. Screens also should be used to prevent embers from coming out of open fireplaces, and dry hardwood is the best fuel in terms of safety.
The American Red Cross was at the scene of both fires, and provided canteen services for first responders and assisted victims with food, clothing and comfort kits, the agency said. The agency also assisted the Whaleys with lodging.