Source: Video provided by Danny Fernandez.
A fire at the Exeter Gardens apartment complex Saturday afternoon on Schooley Avenue in Exeter was started in the shed in the back of the building. Crews quickly extinguished the blaze and no one was hurt.
EXETER — A video obtained by the Times Leader and posted to YouTube from a fire in the borough Saturday has gained a lot of attention and questions have risen regarding the actions of people in the video.
During a fire at the Exeter Gardens apartment complex at 500 Schooley Avenue, Danny Fernandez filmed a clip with his cell phone of the back of Building J engulfed in flames. In the video, two plain-clothed men can be seen working the hose and battling the fire.
According to Exeter Fire Chief Donald Skursky, when the first Exeter truck arrived on the scene, only the driver and one other trained firefighter were present. Prior to more companies becoming available, the two men in plain clothes helped the company begin to extinguish the fire.
Skursky said one of the men working the fire is a highly trained firefighter and has well-documented experience, though he refused to offer additional information. Skursky said the men were in the area when the fire broke out.
“The two people that were fighting the fire at the beginning were there when the fire engine arrived,” Skursky said. “(The men in plain clothes) grabbed a hose and started to extinguish the exterior fire. They were not members of the Exeter Fire Department. They were members of a surrounding company who just happened to be in the area.”
Skursky would not say to which fire department the men belonged.
Anthony John was one of the first volunteers from the Exeter Fire Department eon the scene. He arrived to see the building in flames and the two men working the blaze. He said he knows them to be firefighters from other companies but would not say which companies.
John said he keeps his fire equipment in his pickup truck at all times. When he arrived on the scene, he still had to dress, he said. That allowed the two men to work the blaze and quickly knock it down. The two men were not on the hose for very long, John said.
“I had to put my gear on and while that was happening, the two guys were beginning to fight the fire,” he said. “I had to put my mask on and hood and, as soon as I did, I relieved the guys on the line.”
The engine driver connected to the hydrant when the truck arrived and set out the hose lines. He had to run back to the truck to turn on the water so the lines would be able to push water out to the fire. In that time, the men from the other companies quickly picked up the lines and knocked the fire down once the driver supplied the water.
John said that was key to keeping the fire contained.
“It would have got inside,” he said. “It charred the outside and was getting in the walls. It was going up into the rafters. They did a fast knockdown and I thank them for that.”
The fire broke out around 4:30 p.m. in the rear in a shed connected to the back of Building J and quickly engulfed a vacant apartment, displacing four people.
Through it all, Skursky said, the help from the surrounding companies and community goes a long way when fighting a fire.
“The volunteers in this area have dwindled drastically,” he said. “When we have a call, everyone from the valley comes to help; they want to help. Those people on the hose never went into the fire and never did anything to put them into danger.”
John said the situation is rare, but he’s not surprised with the way other companies handled the situation.
“We’re a very close community,” he said. “If we can help out, we help out. If someone gets there before we do, they always help.”
Reach Nick Wagner at 570-6991-6406 or on Twitter @Dispatch_Nick