Fire damages Third Street home

Photo by Alan Warren, Messenger-Inquirer | awarren@messenger-inquirer.com Owensboro Firefighters including Dylan Brown, left, battle the heat as well as a basement fire on Thursday at a home at 1435 W. 3rd St.

A Thursday morning fire caused extensive damage to a home on West Third Street, although firefighters were able to save a cat trapped inside.

When an ambulance was dispatched to accompany firefighters to the blaze, an undetermined issue caused the ambulance to not be immediately dispatched, fire officials said. Representatives from American Medical Response Inc., the company that runs the ambulance service, are looking into what caused the delay, a fire department official said.

No one was inside at the time the fire was reported at 8:23 a.m. at the home in the 1400 block of West Third Street. The fire appears to have been started by burning incense in the basement, Battalion Chief Steve Leonard said.

An ambulance is dispatched to fires to assist firefighters, who must recover from the heat during intense summer weather.

City Fire Chief Steve Mitchell said an ambulance was sent to the scene after a delay.

"We were there 15 to 20 minutes before we actually got an ambulance," Mitchell said. The ambulance "was just a little late. ... There were two other medical calls at the same time," Mitchell said.

Battalion Chief Colter Tate said AMR officials said they would look into the delay.

"We're waiting to get a definitive answer from AMR on what exactly occurred," Tate said. AMR's regional director was on vacation and could not be reached. No one at AMR's Evansville office could be reached late Thursday afternoon.

The incense caused surrounding materials to catch fire, Leonard said. The basement sustained extensive fire damage and water damage, and the entire home sustained smoke damage.

A cat was rescued and taken to a veterinarian, and "seemed to be unharmed," Leonard said. The fire appears to have been an accident, he said.

AMR, which is based in Evansville is new to providing ambulance service in Owensboro. AMR took over ambulance service on June 30. The previous ambulance provider, Procarent, announced in January it would stop providing ambulance service in the county.

Leonard said firefighters can only work for 8 to 10 minutes in high temperatures before they need to rest. He said firefighters dealt with the heat by rotating crews and setting up rest areas with cooling chairs, fans and water.

An additional engine was called for extra firefighters, Leonard said. No firefighters required medical care while on the scene.

Mitchell said part of the contract with AMR calls for the agency to adjust its ambulance crew schedule if needed.

"One good thing we built into the AMR is they have a data system and are tracking" calls for ambulance service, Mitchell said. "After one year of data, they'll know (how) to move their schedule around."

The ambulance service has three ambulances for the county on order, Mitchell said, but "paramedics are hard to find."

"That's Kentucky-wide, that's not just here," he said.

James Mayse, 270-691-7303, jmayse@messenger-inquirer.com, Twitter: @JamesMayse

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