Clay County EMT Help Crews Battle Flames that Destroy his House

- A member of a Clay County volunteer fire department helps battle flames at his own home Thursday morning.

The fire was on Blue Heron Trail in Arrowhead Ranch Estates.

Fire crews from several volunteer departments fought in sub-freezing temperatures to try and save the home of one of their own.

However, putting out the fire was only part of the battle as flames quickly spread to nearby grass making crews work even harder.

Tom Steidl says after 8 a.m. he was alerted to the fire in his home by his dogs.  He was alone in the home when the fire broke out.

"I just heard a popping noise and my dogs came and got me and by the time I got to my living room the house was engulfed in flames," says Steidl.

But he didn't stand by and watch crews battle the blaze. He helped them.

"I was in my bare feet, which as a firefighter you are definitely not suppose to be doing, but yes, I was trying to put the fire out," Steidl adds.

Steidl is an EMT with Arrowhead Ranch Estates Volunteer Fire Department-- one of eight crews that helped fight this fire that quickly ignited nearby dry brush and grass.

"The grass fire that started off of it was hard to maintain cause it was in the bottom of a pond going at other structures so, trying to access because of nature and the speeds it had it going made it very difficult," says Mike Hall, chief of Lake Arrowhead Volunteer Fire Department.

Fire officials say temperatures in the low 20's, 35 mile per hour winds and a wind child that made it feel like 3 degrees also made the firefighters job difficult and even had some tanker trucks freezing up. And after a fight of more than four hours crews finally got the flames out so Steidl could  sift through the rubble to see remained of his possessions.

Fire officials say the wife of a firefighter broke her ankle while delivering blankets to crews and one of Steidl's three dogs is still missing. Steidl did have insurance  but he lost just about everything he owned.

Although he plans to stay with relatives the American Red Cross is helping help him and his wife purchase food, clothing and prescription medicines. The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

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