Chief Eastham Details How Relentless Assistance Prevented Further Fire Damage

by Tony E. Rutherford, News Editor
Chief Eastham Details How Relentless Assistance Prevented Further Fire Damage

Huntington fire chief Carl Eastham stood coolly before members of Huntington City Council at the July 28,2014 meeting.

He showed no emotion as he calmly and methodically told the fire fighting strategy that eventually prevented the Morris Building flames from taking out a block of downtown.

Eastham is no stranger to fighting high rise fire. His helmet burned as the last one out of Emmons Junior.

While delving out accolades to surrounding volunteer fire departments, the Sheriff’s Department, Salvation Army and Red Cross, Eastham stated that the often mentioned collapses inside the Morris Building were only an elevator mechanism plunging from the penthouse and an air handling fan.

“A three-and-a-half foot wooden roof burnt off and made [the fire] appear worse than it was,” Eastham explained.

Threatened fifty mile an hour winds, though, caused preparations for a worst case scenario and when the wind speed increased firefighters pulled back. Fortunately, the storm did not last long. They were able to reenter and fight proactively.

He praised his team who repeatedly stated, “just give us a little more time and we will get this thing.” He credited the successful containment to firefighter “stubbornness, training and outside agencies.”

Eastham said, “the building is structurally sound, other than an elevator and a new roof.” Upon refurbishing from mostly water damage, the owners will have to bring it up to the newest fire codes by adding a sprinkler system and extinguishers on each floor.

The fire appears to be accidental, Eastham said. A video indicates the fire erupted inside the elevator penthouse that contains the elevator motor and wenches.

In a separate interview, he indicated that the penthouse did not have a smoke detector. A sprinkler system would have put out the fire before it spread. The fire may have been started by lightning or an electrical spark. The investigation is on going.

Eastham indicated he had taken notes for future reference.

However, city councilman David Ball, himself a retired fire fighter, told him, "thanks buddy, you all did great."

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