A reported fight at a nearby convenience store brought police to the home on East Jackson Street about the same time a fire broke out inside, and that apparent coincidence — and officers’ quick action — saved a woman’s life, Mountain Home Assistant Fire Chief Bud Corbus said Wednesday.
The Monday night fire, started at the base of the basement stairs, “is definitely suspicious” and under investigation as a possible arson, Corbus said.
A juvenile connected to the home was involved in the convenience store report, he said, and police were outside the house about 7:15 p.m. sorting things out when someone noticed smoke and said a woman was asleep inside. The woman cannot walk and requires a wheelchair, officials said.
Before firefighters could respond to the call, police officer Brian Thomas entered the smoke-filled home and, unable to see, crawled until he found the woman in a back bedroom, police said. Sgt. Russell Griggs went in with a fire extinguisher and helped Thomas bring the woman to safety, police said. The woman and the officers were all treated for smoke inhalation.
The fire had just started, he said, and when firefighters arrived it took less than 10 minutes to extinguish it.
But if police hadn’t been there when it was first detected, he said, “that would have been a tragic outcome.”
“That was the whole key to everything, that they were standing there when this incident went down,” Corbus said. “A fire can double in size every 60 seconds.”
The fire burned the staircase and nearby areas, and the home sustained heavy smoke damage, Corbus said.
It is unclear whether the structure can be salvaged, he said, but it is not fit for habitation now. The Red Cross and the fire department burnout fund have offered help to the family. Police said Tuesday that four adults and four children lived at the home.
Fire and police investigators are continuing to look into how and why the fire started, and anyone with information is asked to call Mountain Home Fire Chief Mark Moore at 208-587-2117.