By Holbrook Mohr/The Associated Press
BAY ST. LOUIS – Flooding from Hurricane Isaac prevented firefighters on the Mississippi Gulf Coast from getting to a burning house Tuesday before flames consumed the structure.
The house, raised on stilts, was in a low-lying Bay St. Louis neighborhood that was ordered evacuated Monday.
Emergency responders could not get a fire truck into the area south of Interstate 10. They eventually got a dump truck and an airboat and went to see if anybody was in the home. Nobody was there and the fire had not spread to any other structures or vehicles, though the heat from the fire damaged siding on a nearby house. The house that burned was a total loss and heavy smoke hung over the flooded streets.
“I have to say, I’ve never had this happen.” Bay St. Louis Fire Chief Pam Sanfillippo said.
Two firefighters went in first on the dump truck. Another crew went in when the boat arrived.
Firefighters have used the Hancock County Emergency Operations boat during previous storms for search and rescue missions, but it was the first time they’d used it to get to a fire.
An Associated Press reporter rode along on the boat through flood waters that were several feet deep in places.
In heavy rain, the boat crashed into a stop sign and a light pole after coming upon a shallow spot in the street. An employee from the mayor’s office had a gash in his leg, and others had bruises and scrapes but nobody was seriously hurt.
The crew hooked a chain to the boat and pulled it across the shallow spot with the dump truck. Navigating the neighborhood streets, the boat crew found where fire had spread to some nearby trees, but no other structures were seriously damaged.
When asked if he’s ever responded to a fire in a dump truck, Capt. Monty Strong chuckled and said, “That was my first.”
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