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Fire Chief gets media attention for helping to put out fire with garden hose

June 18, 2019 – News

Capital City Fire/Rescue Chief Rich Etheridge hasn’t bought anyone ice cream yet, but “I probably should,” he said. “We got a thing here, if you get on the front page of the paper, you have to buy your shift ice cream, or something like that.” And that’s exactly where he was Friday morning – on the cover and above the fold of the Juneau Empire.

CCFR wrote on its Facebook page last Thursday about responding to a structure fire on Channel Drive: “The Fire Chief was just happening to be driving by and in the process of investigating black smoke that was coming out of a 2 story complex when the fire department was paged out. He was the first officer on scene and found a fire on the second floor apartment. The sole occupant was in the room when the fire started but was able to escape unharmed. The Fire Chief used a garden hose that was on scene and was able to knock down most of the fire. Crews arrived to do a complete extinguishment and overhaul of the room.”

Chief Etheridge says someone had already drug the garden hose over and was shooting it in the front door. “I got the hose from him and went just a little ways inside the door and knocked the bulk of the fire down. Then I used the nozzle and, from the outside, tapped out a small hole in the window at the seat of the where the fire was at, and kept spraying water on it to keep it down until the fire crews could get in there with the fire hose.”

The Chief doesn’t think what he did is a big deal. “I’m not sure why the story caught traction and people paid attention to it. I think it was a slow news day,” he jokes.

Other news outlets picked up the story. Firefighters around the state have been contacting him and the station “just teasing us about being heroes and our 15 minutes of fame, that kind of stuff,” Etheridge says.

What is noteworthy about the incident was the use a garden hose. Typically, a firefighter would use a fire extinguisher to get the fire under control. For this kind of fire, there’s even grenade-style extinguishers. “You can throw these in the front door and close the door instead of standing there with a garden hose,” Etheridge says. “I had one in the truck but it would’ve taken too long to go back down to the truck to get it.”

And then there’s the Chief’s timing. The Empire quoted CCFR Assistant Chief Ed Quinto, “If it wasn’t for putting the fire out quickly, it could have been worse. The building is made out of wood. It could have spread quickly. We’re fortunate he was here quickly and put the fire out pretty fast.”

Etheridge says, “Typically I don’t have that kind of timing but, hey, it worked out that way this time.”