Known to have a gas can and a 20-pound propane cylinder, the subject's intentions were unclear. This size of propane cylinder had the potential to level the residence and harm anyone nearby, Hancock said.
Gravois firefighters were instrumental in rescuing a suicidal subject Tuesday who had started a fire inside a residence and locked themselves inside with a gas can and a propane cylinder.
Fire Chief Ed Hancock praised his personnel for their service on a call that included greater risk than they normally face.
“Entering a structure that’s on fire is always dangerous, but with this situation, they really went above and beyond,” said the long-time chief.
The Gravois Fire Protection District received a criticism of their handling of the incident on its Facebook page due to the length of the time between the GFPD’s arrival and fighting the fire.
The GFPD was dispatched to a house on Montana Road, between Gravois Mills and Laurie, around 6:30 p.m. Aug. 8 in support of law enforcement. A subject had barricaded themselves inside and started a fire in the kitchen, according to Hancock.
Known to have a gas can and a 20-pound propane cylinder, the subject’s intentions were unclear. This size of propane cylinder had the potential to level the residence and harm anyone nearby, Hancock said.
Upon the fire department's arrival, law enforcement surrounded the residence, and the department was instructed to stage about a mile and a half back, he said. Because of the nature of the incident the police were not able to secure the scene as the subject refused to come out. Eventually, GFPD personnel were asked to approach for consultation, and a strategy was devised to fight the still small fire inside.
It was roughly an hour from the start of the incident until the GFPD engaged the fire, according to Hancock.
Firefighters approached the residence, and through a window, could see light active fire in the kitchen as well as light smoke showing from the eaves, according to Hancock. Circling the residence, no activity was seen outside, but firefighters could see in through a window as they remained below grade. Breaking out the glass with a pike pole, they were able to indirectly squirt fire towards the flames through the window and withdrew.
Reapproaching, no further sign of fire was seen in the kitchen, said Hancock. Firefighters set up a ventilation fan at a sliding patio door to push the smoke out, and withdrew again.
Expecting another fire or possibly an explosion, no activity followed their efforts, and there was no sign of movement inside after a few minutes. The GFPD put a two-person crew in the building for a primary search with a nozzle crew at the door.
Firefighters found the subject 12 feet inside the house, apparently passed out from an unknown cause. The subject was unresponsive, said Hancock, but then woke up and became combative. Firefighters had to contain the subject until law enforcement came up, according to Hancock. After under control of police, the subject was evaluated by Lake West Ambulance personnel and transported to the hospital.
He did not appear to have any burns or other visible wounds, Hancock said. There was minimal fire and smoke damage to the counter and cabinets in the kitchen.