Fortunately for the residents of a Channel Drive apartment building, Capital City Fire/Rescue Chief Rich Etheridge happened to be driving by just as a fire was starting in the building.
Etheridge was driving inbound on Egan Drive around noon Thursday when he saw dark smoke coming from the building 2685 Channel Drive, he told the Empire. The building is located next to a work site, and Etheridge said it’s normal to see smoke from the area.
“We typically see smoke from their incinerator and heavy equipment operating, it just looked different from normal,” Etheridge said in an interview.
Etheridge turned his car around and went to the scene, where he saw heavy black smoke coming from an upstairs apartment. Someone on scene had just called 911 and emergency vehicles were starting to head to the scene. When Etheridge went up to the apartment, one of the building owners was trying to put the fire out with a garden hose.
“I took the garden hose from the homeowner, punched part of a window out and tried to keep it in check while everybody was showing up,” Etheridge said.
Nobody was injured, Etheridge said. Someone was home at the time in the one-bedroom apartment where the fire started, CCFR Assistant Chief Ed Quinto said on scene. As of 12:45 p.m., Fire Marshal Dan Jager had just shown up and was investigating the fire, and a cause had not been identified. Etheridge wasn’t sure if the building was insured.
At least two fire trucks and four ambulances came to the scene, in addition to four other vehicles carrying police chiefs and Jager. Etheridge, Quinto, and Assistant Chiefs Chad Cameron and Tod Chambers all ended up on scene at different times.
Etheridge said they always try to send as many vehicles as they can to commercial areas because they tend to have more square footage than a house, and fires can spread rapidly. With the location being about midway between the downtown station and the station in the Mendenhall Valley, vehicles from both stations were there.
Quinto joked that Etheridge was probably on his way to lunch at the time, but said it was extremely fortuitous that he happened to be there right then.
“If it wasn’t for putting the fire out quickly, it could have been worse,” Quinto said. “The building is made out of wood. It could have spread quickly. We’re fortunate he was here quickly and put the fire out pretty fast.”
• Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @akmccarthy.