A fire destroyed one home and threatened several others last Sunday in Money Bayou.
There were no injuries reported, but one structure was completely destroyed.
South Gulf County Volunteer Fire and Rescue crews responded minutes after midnight Sunday to 201 Lee Street and found a fully-involved three-story structure near the beach access point at Money Bayou.
One other home had already sustained minor damage to its roof and several other structures were threatened.
The family living in the home had managed to escape the fire unhurt, though they lost all their belongings, including vehicles, according to reports.
Given the complete destruction of the home once they arrived on scene, firefighters quickly focused on neighboring structures, evacuating several residents.
“The priority is, in order, life-safety, exposure and extinguish,” said Mike Barrett, deputy fire chief for South Gulf Fire/Rescue.
“Once we determined everybody was safe, we went to the closest exposure.”
That was the house next door, which had already sustained some roof damage. Barrett said crews went “three deep” or three houses away to set up battle lines.
“We were able to get our folks between the primary structure and the other structures and we held our ground,” Barrett said. “We were lucky again.”
South Gulf Fire/Rescue was aided by several units from other county departments assisting under the mutual aid agreement that binds the county’s volunteer forces.
“These are ordinary men and women doing extraordinary work,” Barrett said. “Gulf County is blessed with men and women willing to serve the community at their own personal risk.”
Firefighters finally brought fire under control after roughly two-and-a-half hours, Barrett said.
The situation, said Dr. Pat Hardman, president of the Coastal Community Association of Gulf County, could have been so much worse without the response from local volunteer firefighters, especially South Gulf Fire/Rescue.
All one had to do is look at the recent television news broadcasts and the horrors taking place in California.
“Without the quick response from our volunteer fire department, the entire neighborhood would likely be gone,” said Hardman.
The fire is under investigation by the State Fire Marshal.
For Barrett and Chief Vince Bishop, the important number was zero, the number of casualties, civilians and firefighters.
“My main mission is life-safety and thankfully nobody was hurt,” Barrett said. “Although the structure was a total loss, all firefighters went home alive; I consider that a win.”
Last week’s fire was the second major structure fire of the summer season, the first destroying a home on Catamaran Drive.
As with last week’s fire, there were no casualties beyond the loss of property.
“If you haven’t kept our fire department volunteers in your prayers for their safety, haven’t personally thanked them for their dedication and unselfish service, or haven’t sent them a donation for safety equipment and other needs, here is compelling reason to do so,” Hardman said.
South Gulf Fire/Rescue, according to the latest statistics, handles more calls each year than all the county’s other departments combined.