Riggins: Preliminary investigation shows Fairview fire started with outside burn

MACON, Georgia (41NBc/WMGT) – Macon-Bibb fire officials say the fire that killed a firefighter and injured five others may have started outside the home while the owner was burning debris.

During a news conference Friday, Macon-Bibb Fire Chief Marvin Riggins says the homeowner, Don Coffey, told investigators he was burning debris in a barrel outside of his house on Fairview Drive.

“They feel it could have easily started in the carport area where there was a burned barrel and [it] has been burning very close time-wise to the time of the fire,” Riggins said.

Chief Riggins says outside burning is allowed in Bibb, but some burns require a permit. Authorities are looking into whether Coffey needed a permit for this particular type of outside burning.

“He was just burning debris. When we look at barrel burning and this outside burning, we do need a permit to burn outside debris, but sometimes barrel burning, warming fires, we typically don’t have to issue a burn permit for that,” Riggins said.

He expects those findings to be included in the final report.

Riggins also gave an update on the injured firefighters who were sent to the Augusta Burn Center. According to the fire chief, 46- year-old Capt. Ferrell Cromer was released from the hospital. He suffered from smoke inhalation. Macon-Bibb County spokesperson Chis Floore confirmed Cromer is back on duty.

34-year-old Cpl. Adam Michie was also released from the hospital and resting at home. He had a burned hand. According to a Facebook post from his wife, Michie got to spend time with friends. She adds, “Please pray for the guys at Station 7. It is hitting them so hard…They really need each other right now. The bond of brotherhood between these men amazes me.”

Riggins says 59-year-old Battalion Chief Steven Stafford is still at the burn center, but his condition has improved. He suffered from smoke inhalation.

As for the rest of the Macon-Bibb firefighters, Chief Riggins brought in counselors to help them cope with the loss of a fellow brother.

“Time is helping. This is certainly not an easy thing that we are having to endure and the firefighters themselves, you know, it’s being replayed over and over in their minds,” said Riggins.

Chief Riggins adds there is one thing helping them get through this difficult time:

“The support from Macon-Bibb and it’s surrounding areas has been absolutely outstanding,” Riggins explained. 

According to Riggins, the fire broke out at the home on Fairview Drive around 5:45 p.m. Wednesday. Everyone inside the home was out of the house by the time fire crews arrived on scene. The home was fully engulfed in flames.

The initial unit entered the home and started fire suppression measures. About an hour later, the floor collapsed, causing about five firemen to fall into the basement, according to Riggins.

A Code Red was issued, meaning an immediate evacuation happened and rescue efforts began. The fire chief says Lt. Parker was one of the first officers to fall into the basement.

“Lt. Parker was entrapped for more than 30 minutes. He was in a horrific environment,” Riggins said.

Despite efforts to save him, the 46-year-old died in the line of duty.

“He sustained a level of heat and gases to the respiratory area,” Riggins said.

Five other firefighters were injured during the blaze: Stafford, Cromer, Michie, 28-year-old Ben Bollinger, and 27-year-old Matt Couey. Firefighters Bollinger and Couey were sent to the Medical Center, Navicent Health. They were both released Thursday.

Riggins described 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.

“He could turn lemons into lemonade. He always wanted to find that silver lining,” Riggins said as he remembered Parker. “We’re healing. It’s a slow process.”

Riggins called in the Georgia Fire Marshall’s Office and ATF to assist in the investigation.

The Macon Memorial Park Funeral Home is handling Lt. Parker’s service. There will be a visitation on Sunday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Macon-Bibb Government Center. It is open to the public.

The funeral service will be Monday at 11 a.m. at the Macon City Auditorium.

Lt. Parker will be laid to rest at the Glen Haven Memorial Gardens. An escorted funeral procession will lead him to his final resting place.

Categories: Bibb County, Local News

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