RFD fights downtown fire
Firefighters with the Russellville Fire Department were leaving West Elementary School from a morning of fire prevention and safety demonstrations with young students Friday when they noticed smoke downtown. Investigation revealed a house fire on Cotaco Street that was already well-involved, and firefighters called the incident in to dispatch.
“It was pretty well-involved … the attic was rolling in fire,” said Fire Chief Joe Mansell. Firefighters entered the house to try to ensure no one was inside. Finding no one, and the fire growing, Mansell said he told them to get out. “The roof looked like it was fixing to come in.”
The smoke and scent drifted across Russellville at least as far as Highway 43. Dry, windy conditions did nothing to help the RFD as firefighters battled the blaze on all sides. Mansell said it appeared a shed was the first structure to ignite, and flames spread to the house from there. “It appeared it had been burning for a while … The shed was already gone.”
Firefighters contained the flames to the single home, despite the proximity of another nearby house and the next-door Rescue Squad building and Franklin County Archives. “The guys did a heck of a job,” Mansell praised. “They kept it confined to this property.”
The house was a total loss, according to Mansell.
Mansell said home owner Julie Gargis, of Muscle Shoals, indicated that family members stay in the home intermittently, though no one lives in it full-time.
The fire is under further investigation after reports came to the fire department that someone might have been burning something in the back yard, that could have led to the house fire.
“We are under an emergency no-burn for the state of Alabama. This is a prime example of why not to burn anything right now,” said fire marshal Justin Green. Green said if it is determined that someone was burning, that is an arrestable offense under the burn ban, a misdemeanor with penalties of $250-500 fee as well as up to six months of jail time. If the fire was determined to be arson, that would of course be an additional criminal offense.