Chimney fire, power outages keep GFD busy
For a period of five hours Friday evening, Greencastle firefighters rarely saw the inside of the fire station.
Half a dozen runs -- including a chimney fire and a series of electrical issues with Duke Energy -- kept the department busy from 5:15 p.m. until nearly 10:30.
"We've been on station for about 20 minutes since 5:15," Assistant Chief Jeff Mace said shortly after returning to station. "Just long enough to put the trucks back in service and then go out again."
The call to the structure fire came at 6:29 p.m., with a report of a chimney fire at the Bob and Cheri Walkosak residence at 2001 Windemere Dr.
"There was a fire in the chimney and somehow the fire got outside of the flue and got into the walls that were built around the flue inside their masonry wall. It caught that on fire," Mace said.
The fireplace in the home appeared to be in working order, but the residents soon discovered something was wrong.
"They had a little fire in their fireplace and noticed smoke outside the house," Mace reported. "And then they could hear the fire was inside the walls, and so they called us."
Responders found the fire contained to the chimney area and battled it from whatever angle they could gain -- above, below, from the side. The small area of the fire was good news, but made fighting it more challenging.
Firefighters tried to gain any advantage they could, prying the metal cap off the top of the chimney and tearing drywall out of an upstairs room to gain access to the blaze.
Mace said the house escaped with minimal damage.
"I think they're even staying there tonight," Mace said. "There was light smoke damage. There was some damage in one room where they had to pull drywall down from the ceiling and the walls to get to the flue and the fire inside the flue.
"It was contained to that area and it did not get into the attic space, which is good. That's a big house."
Greencastle firefighters, assisted by Madison Township, Cloverdale Township, Bainbridge and Reelsville, were on the scene for about two hours battling the fire.
Crews from Fillmore, Reelsville and Bainbridge covered the Greencastle station during the incident.
Putnam County Operation Life and the Putnam County Sheriff's Department also assisted at the scene.
The presence of a dozen or so emergency vehicles stirred the neighborhood on a quiet spring evening, as a number of neighbors gathered nearby to watch the scene unfold.
The house fire was not the only major problem of the night in the Greencastle area. Electrical problems on the city's east side kept Duke Energy responders and firefighters busy for much of the evening.
Putnam County 911 Dispatch received the first call of a power outage at the Walmart store at 5:31 p.m. The store was forced to close for part of the evening until power returned.
Motorists in the area also reported flashing lights at the stoplights, another indicator of a power problem.
Dispatch reported the problems encompassed an area from the Walmart store to Heartland Automotive.
A call to Duke Energy was not returned Friday night, but the company website reported 65 outages in the area as of 7:30 p.m. The number was down to three by 8:30 p.m., but had climb back up to 30 two hours later.
It was this second flair-up of the problem that had Greencastle firefighters on the scene. No sooner had they returned from the house fire, and they were dispatched to the area of Warren Drive and Veterans Highway.
Mace said GFD was there primarily providing assistance and traffic control. Electrical equipment seemed to be overloading as Duke attempted to restore power.
"We were on standby as they tried to bring them back up," Mace said. "They had used a couple of their extinguishers already and they were running out."
With GFD back on station at 10:30 p.m., Duke was still dealing with the problem, with Mace predicting they would stay on the scene for some time.
By midnight, the number of reported outages had dropped back to six.
Back on station, the firefighters simply had their fingers crossed for some much needed rest.
"It's crazy. Sometimes it just gets like that," Mace said.