(La Porte County, IN) - An off-duty firefighter made the most out of a garden hose to keep a neighbor’s garage from totally going up in flames.
The fire is blamed on still-hot embers from a pile of leaves burned the previous day finding their way into a large fresh pile of leaves next to the garage, according to La Porte County Police.
Firefighters from Westville and Scipio Township were dispatched to 7722 W. 125 South on Saturday afternoon. At about the same time, a neighbor called Coolspring Township Assistant Fire Chief Warren Smith at home about the fire.
Smith made the half-mile drive in his personal vehicle and directed a nearby resident to bring him his garden hose. He attached the hose to the victim’s garden hose to reach the flames climbing two of the outside walls. But, the amount of water coming out was nowhere near the volume from a fire hose.
However, Smith said he made the most out of his limited supply by spraying water in all the right places to achieve a good knockdown of the flames before responding firefighters arrived roughly five minutes later.
“You would be amazed at what you can do with a little bit of water if you know what you’re doing,” Smith said.
Smith said the flames probably would have engulfed the garage and spread to the house just a few feet away had he not been home. However, the fire damage was limited to the melted siding on two outside walls of the garage and some interior damage.
Not damaged were three vehicles inside the garage, including a near-mint condition 1980s Honda Civic the owner has had since he was a teenager.
"It’s got the original paint on it. It’s really clean. Rust-free,” Smith said.
Smith said embers from burned leaves can still be hot the next day in piles large enough to allow the fire to smolder for an extended period.
According to police, the leaves were burned about 20 feet from the garage, and more leaves would set fire in the same spot.
Smith warned that no leaf burning should happen closer than 50 or 100 feet from any structure or freshly raked pile. He also advises no burning of leaves when conditions are windy and dry.
“Embers, they just float up in the air. If they blow 15 to 20 feet away, you start having spot fires everywhere. That’s when you get into a real problem,” he said.