By Echo Menges
Hurdland, MO – Firefighters from the Hurdland Volunteer Fire Department were called to the scene of a house fire Friday afternoon, February 19, 2021, at 412 Second Street in Hurdland across the street from the Hurdland Fire Station and on the southeast corner of the Second and Main Street intersection. The call went out at approximately 1:35 p.m.
One resident of the home, Hannah Komerous, was asleep in the living room when the fire began to overwhelm the structure. She made it out safely with her little dog, Tidbit. Another dog, Wanda, was found safe in the backyard.
The other resident of the home, owner David Russell, was not home when the fire department was called.
“There was a gas heater that malfunctioned and caused a small fire. (Russell) thought he had the fire put out and left to get parts to fix it. The fire was in the wall. It traveled up to the attic and the rest is history,” said HVFD Assistant Firechief Tom Boatman.
“The worst part about the whole deal was that Russell had a heater problem in the house. It had been smoldering since early in the morning,” said HVFD Firechief Kris McCarty.
Firefighters arrived to find the home fully engulfed by flames with heavy smoke billowing from all sides of the house. They could be seen slipping and sliding on foot and in firetrucks in a seemingly desperate attempt to get fire hoses pulled and water to the fire.
Freezing temperatures, a thick layer of snow, a large amount of debris on the property and a limited water supply further hampered the firefight. Firefighters also had to navigate live power lines, which had fallen during the fire.
“We made the call to take a defensive attack, opposed to a full on assault, early on,” said Boatman. “The house was fully engulfed when we arrived. There’s not a lot you can do when it gets to that point.”
“The house was unsafe to go inside from the get-go,” said McCarty.
Firefighters focused on protecting neighboring structures.
Volunteer firefighters from the Baring and Edina Volunteer Fire Departments were also called to the scene to bring much needed water as Hurdland’s one fire hydrant was unable to keep up with the demand and water pressure to the hydrant was very low.
“The one fire hydrant in Hurdland had extremely low water output. The Knox County Water Supply District supplies the water to the line. The line was not frozen. It was the low water pressure,” said Boatman. “Brashear’s water hydrant was frozen. When we requested access to it, we were told it was frozen.”
Hurdland’s secondary water supply, the Hurdland Sever Lake located approximately two miles south of Hurdland, on Highway A, was frozen over.
“When the fire call went out, we called for Baring to bring their 3,000 gallon taker. Our engine had 2,500 gallons. The other truck had roughly 750 gallons,” said Boatman. “That’s not nearly enough to fight a fire of that size.”
Komerous watched the fire destroy the home from the safety of the neighbor’s porch until Russell returned to find his home fully engulfed by raging flames. After talking to members of the fire department in front of the home, the two watched quietly as the roof collapsed above the Nineteenth Century Victorian style house and a huge angry column of thick black smoke churned up into the sky.
“We’re sorry,” a firefighter told Russell in the street. “We did everything we could.”
Knox County Sheriff’s Deputy Naomi Tharp worked with the Knox County Ministerial Alliance and the T&T Motel in Edina to quickly arrange temporary housing for the displaced residents, which was funded by the Ministerial Alliance.
According to Knox County United Methodist Parish Pastor Rev. Graig Connell, the Knox County Clothes Closet began working on furnishing the victims with immediate necessities like clothing as soon as they learned of the devastating fire.
“That’s one of the great things about living in a community. People pull together when bad things happen and support each other,” said McCarty.
According to Boatman, the home was not insured.
HVFD fire officials said ten firefighters from the Hurdland department arrived to fight the fire. At least ten more came from Baring and several more came from Edina. Responders also came from the Knox County Ambulance District, Sheriff’s Office along with a power technician from Ameren Missouri.
Losing a home to fire was devastating, not only to the people who lived there, but to the volunteers who responded to the fire.
“It’s a sad tragic thing anytime you have a family whose house is on fire. You can’t just turn your feelings off. We’re volunteers from around the community. It affects all of us the same,” said Boatman.
“We’re thankful for everybody who showed up from Baring and Edina, the Ambulance District and the Sheriff’s Office. We’re sad for the loss of someone’s home,” said McCarty.
The Knox County Salvation Army office was setting up an account at the Citizens Bank of Edina as of our press time. Those wishing to donate should contact the bank for more details.