Bubble Blast Seconds Away

Pulling a hose line, El Campo Fire Department Captain Justin Priesmeyer prepares to send a blast from the department’s Compressed Air Foam System or CAFS at the 311 Higbee house fire Wednesday.  The CAFS uses billions upon billions of tiny bubbles to quickly smother a fire, saving far more than just using plain water in an attack. Unfortunately, in this case, the home was fully engulfed in flames, despite the fact that firefighting volunteers made it to the scene within six minutes of the alarms sounding.

El Campo’s firefighting volunteers racing to Higbee Street Wednesday encountered roaring flames annihilating the rooftop ice of a house that could not be saved.

The cause of the 311 E. Higbee fire is still under investigation, Fire Chief Jimmy George Jr. said.

“The occupant (renter Quenton Ferrell) was not at home,” George said. “He was staying with family due to the electrical power outage. The house and contents was a total loss, no persons were injured, but two dogs died in the fire.”

The El Campo Volunteer Fire Department was dispatched to the blaze at 1:50 p.m. Wednesday, sending eight units and 20 firefighters to battle the blaze that was already too far along to save the home.

“Upon our arrival, the house had fire coming out of most of the windows,” George said.

Volunteers had beat the blaze into submission by 2:19 p.m. using a combination of water and the Compressed Air Foam System, or CAFS, which uses billions of bubbles to smother heat.

The 732 square-foot wood-frame home at the intersection with East Third had been built in 1933 and had been owned by the Jerome Hanus family until 2019 when it was sold to Valco Realty. The name of the renter was not available as of press time.

“The cause of the fire is still under investigation. He was without power since the night of (Saturday, Feb. 14), George said. “The fire started in a middle room (dining room) ... unable to find the cause (during the brief initial investigation).”

Despite the intense heat, no vehicles or other homes were damaged as a result of the fire. No firefighters were injured.


Just The Tip

Of The Proverbial Iceberg


Weather-related issues had El Campo firefighters scrambling from Saturday morning until the final thaw. By Thursday morning, volunteers had already rolled from the station 23 times.

Between six and eight firefighters garrisoned at the West Loop station starting Saturday to ensure as quick a response as possible while ice began to form.

There were weather delays as roadways became treacherous.

Crews responded to one other house fire call, one which turned out to be an issue with an attic heater which did not damage the home.

Two non-weather-related crashes, along with five caused by ice, had volunteers scrambling.

“The first crash (on the FM 960 overpass) involved about 10 vehicles with minor injuries, three transported to the hospital. Other crashes were vehicles running off the roadway.”

Alarm system activations prompted firefighter response six times between Sunday and Wednesday.

“Two (were) related to carbon monoxide detector activation (which) after investigation – no issues. Two were related to broken fire sprinkler systems due to the freeze (at a cotton warehouse and at El Campo Middle School.) Others were smoke detector activated – no fire.”

Four additional calls involved residents smelling natural gas, only one of which involved a house. That leak was quickly sealed.

One downed power line hit a tree, one home had a malfunctioning heater and two times El Campo EMS needed help with patients.

“From late night Sunday, Feb. 11 to Monday, Feb. 15 morning, there was ice on the roads especially on the overpasses. Units were able to respond but very slowly. We replaced our newest engine 1230 with engine 1231 due to height of the trucks and placed equipment on our brush trucks that are four-wheel drive.”

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