Macon-Bibb mayor, fire chief discuss ‘horrific’ fire that killed firefighter
During a news conference Thursday afternoon, Macon-Bibb Fire Chief Marvin Riggins said this is a moment that touched the entire community.
“He always wanted to know what can he do to help and I won’t ever forget that,” Riggins said in reference to fallen fire Lt. Randy Parker.
Fire crews responded to the house on Fairview Drive in West Macon around 5:45 p.m. Wednesday. Riggins says everyone inside the home was out of the house when firefighters arrived. He says that is when the search and rescue mission switched focus and firefighters worked to contain the blaze.
“It doesn’t appear anything that makes me believe there’s anything unusual about it, but no two fires are alike,” Riggins said.
The single story home was fully engulfed. The initial unit entered the home and started fire suppression measures. About an hour later, the floor collapsed.
“It caused four, five firefighters to fall, which was on top on that level, to fall down into the basement area,” Riggins said.
Riggins says a Code Red was issued, meaning an immediate evacuation happened and rescue efforts began. The fire chief adds says Lt. Parker was one of the first officers to fall into the basement.
“Lt. Parker was entrapped more than 30 minutes. He was in a very horrific environment.”
Riggins tells 41NBC firefighters, Bibb sheriff’s deputies, medics, and possibly community members helped pull the firefighter out of the rubble using a rope. Despite efforts to save him, Lt. Parker died.
“He sustained a level of heat and gases to the respiratory area,” Riggins said.
Lt. Parker, along with 59-year-old Battalion Chief Steven Stafford, 34-year-old Cpl. Adam Michie, 46-year-old Capt. Ferrell Cromer, 28-year-old Ben Bollinger and 27-year-old Matt Couey were injured while battling the blaze.
Bibb County Coroner Leon Jones tells 41NBC Stafford was airlifted to the Augusta Burn Center. Michie and Couey were taken to the burn center by ambulance. Riggins says preliminary reports show that they’re all in good condition. Macon-Bibb County spokesperson Chris Floore says they suffered from smoke inhalation and one officer had burns on his hand.
Firefighters Bollinger and Couey were sent to the Medical Center, Navicent Health. They’ve both been released from the hospital.
Riggins says part of the suppression method involved punching holes in the ceiling, walls, and floors to ventilate the smoke.
“What the firefighters want to do is to try to remove some of the smoke and gases from the exposure itself,” Riggins said. “It keeps it from staying, it rises up.”
Riggins adds it is easier to see and fight the fire when the smoke is cleared. The fire chief does not believe his teams’ suppression methods caused the floor to collapse.
“Because the area which is in question [where the floor collapsed] was not [being ventilated].”
Neighbors tell 41BC they heard three big explosions the night of the fire, but Riggins says it did not effect his team.
“There could have been lots of types of aerosols and things that could have caused that type of explosion,” Riggins said. “As far as I know at this point in time, there was nothing that was related to an explosion that triggered any of the incidents that later occurred.”
During the 30 minute news conference, Macon-Bibb Mayor Robert Reichert said every firefighter on the scene suffered a traumatic injury after seeing what happened. He added our community had a very sad and traumatic day with this catastrophic event.
“We should not as a community take what they do for granted. They put their lives in jeopardy everyday for us,” Reichert said.
Riggins described Lt. Parker as a brave and courageous man. His faith was very strong. He was a team player and a leader. He served the Macon-Bibb community for more than 20 years. He leaves behind a wife and two children.
Riggins told reporters the last call he heard from Parker before he was killed during the fire.
“On scene with Engine 7. Standby for order,” Riggins recalled.
Riggins tells 41NBC there will be counseling for members of the fire department. He adds the last firefighter to die in the line of duty was Capt. Will Ellis Rowe, Jr. in May of 1997.
The fire chief says the investigation into what caused the blaze is ongoing. He called in the Georgia Fire Marshall’s Office and ATF to assist.
Both Riggins and Reichert are asking for the community’s thoughts and prayers for everyone involved in the tragedy.
Funeral arrangements for Parker have not been set.