Massive fire destroys RV repair business, people were trapped on the roof


On Jan. 21, 2024, at 8:06 a.m., North End Volunteer Fire Department, with automatic aid from Cassville Volunteer Fire Department, Cherry Creek Volunteer Fire Department, and Sparta Fire Department, was dispatched to a commercial structure fire at 3703 Roberts-Matthews Highway, which is Above and Beyond RV Repair. This also included White County Sheriff’s Office and White County Emergency Medical Service.

 At approximately 8:08 a.m., it was relayed to all responding agencies there were people stuck on a roof (which was a roof above the porch). There was no way of exit through the burning structure. The only exit they had was out the window to this roof until help could arrive.

At approximately 8:12 a.m., the first arriving deputy advised the structure was about 50 percent involved. During this time, a citizen was going to a call where he worked at Lee Company and saw the fire. The individual got off the exit and came to help with a ladder he had on his work van. J.D. Wooten saw people on the roof with no way to escape, drove off the next exit, and helped get them to safety along with their dog.

At approximately 8:14 a.m., the building was fully involved, and it was relayed all individuals were off the roof and not in danger.

Upon arrival of the first engine, at 8:22 a.m., heavy black/dark gray smoke and heavy fire inside the structure was showing. All fire was contained to inside the building at that time. With the number of resources that would be needed, a county-wide dispatch was requested for manpower and tankers. An individual was given permission to safely and quickly get all campers that were in danger out of the way.

There was a hydrant across the highway from the structure, but it was not operable. Cold, windy, and ice conditions made this a challenge. The water resources, as typically are done in rural areas, were dependent upon water tankers. With most of the county resources concentrated on this fire, Putnam County Fire Department was called to help cover White County and stage at Station 1 in case of another emergency.

Red Cross was called to assist the family with their needs. With the icy conditions, White County Highway Department was called to help with the road conditions where operations were conducted. Domino’s brought pizza to help with the rehab of the firefighters. Elite Automotive was called initially to help get campers away. The wind conditions and the fuel load inside the structure helped advance the fire quickly. Extensive overhaul was conducted, and crews remained on the scene over five-and-a-half hours. A lot of resources are needed with any fire, but larger structures require more resources to safely operate.

The fire was determined to be accidental. Everyone did a great job working together, and no major injuries were reported. It was icy, people were sliding, falling, but we were able to manage and get everything under control with no major injuries. All units cleared the scene at approximately 1:56 p.m.

In all, with just White County on the fire scene, we had a total of three engines, one ladder truck, two service vehicles, seven tankers, one brush truck, four deputies, one ambulance crew, and 47 fire personnel. Putnam County responded with one engine and four personnel. Sparta Fire Department had three personnel standing by at Station 1.

I want to thank everyone that helped during this incident and those at White County E-911 that are the first ones that take the call. We are blessed to live in a community to have good Samaritans, the emergency services personnel we do, the road crews we have, and businesses willing to pitch in whenever there is a need. If you are wanting or thinking of helping in any way to give back to your community, we all need help in some way. Reach out to any department and see how you can help. If anything, we just ask you to keep us all in your prayers as we serve the communities in which we reside.          


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