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While Larry and Mary Creekmore stood helplessly outside their sprawling home on Boltz Lake, fire ravaged the brick structure, destroying all the couple’s treasured collections and belongings.
“We didn’t save one thing,” Mary said.
Larry was able to grab a jewelry box and a couple of his guns, but other than that, the home and contents were a total loss.
Mary, a real estate agent, and her husband, Larry, a retiree, had lived in the home for over four years.
As Larry was returning home on March 15, he noticed smoke coming from the roof.
“I realized something was burning in the attic,” Larry said.
He alerted the wife of a couple who were living in the Creekmore’s basement to get out and call 911.
“I grabbed a few things, just what I could with my hands and got out,” he said.
The fire started in the chimney. It was a total loss.
The Creekmores are living, temporarily, in a friend’s home in Independence.
The 911 call reporting the fire came in at 4:56 p.m. and the Dry Ridge Fire Department arrived on the scene within six minutes after the 911 call, according to dispatch records.
Despite a fire hydrant sitting near the long, winding driveway of the home, firefighters said a lack of water caused them to lose the home.
“We were never able to bring the fire under control because we didn’t have enough water,” said Dry Ridge Assistant Fire Chief Jeff Nantz.
He said five firefighters with DRFD took a hose line to the second floor and used tools to pull down the ceiling to access the fire, but within eight minutes, they had used the 1,000 gallons of water stored in the fire truck’s tank.
While Dry Ridge was inside the burning home, the Williamstown Fire Department arrived and lay more than 2,200 feet of supply line to a fire hydrant on Dry Ridge-Mt. Zion Road.
“They hooked the fire engine to the hydrant so they would be able to pump water that far from the hydrant and the fire hose collapsed,” Nantz said.
Billy Catlett, superintendent of the Bullock Pen Water District, who provides water to the area, said that the waterline in the area isn’t designed for larger fire hoses.
“It’s not going to be able to keep up and the firefighters knew they weren’t supposed to do that,’ Catlett said.
Nantz contends that the larger hose that connected the truck to the hydrant is a standard size and is the only size that fits the trucks used by Dry Ridge.
Catlett said the water district is not in the business of fire fighting.
“Those (hydrants) aren’t there for fire protection,” Catlett said. “They are more to fill a dump tank and the water can be shot onto the fire from there. We’ll help the fire departments if we can, but we’re not a fire system.”
Nantz said because the hydrant didn’t work, firefighters had to disconnect the hose from the trucks and move it 800 feet over the hill to Boltz Lake. They also set up a dump tank to shuttle water to the scene, but those delays meant firefighting efforts were delayed.
“Basically, we were 25 minutes without water,” he said.
Nantz said the problems the fire department encountered were two-fold.
“One, we had a lack of water and the other was a lack of manpower at the beginning of the fire,” he said. “If we would have had even four more firefighters there in the beginning and a dependable water source, it might have been a different outcome.”
“It’s very upsetting to us to watch someone’s house burn to the ground. It’s not what we’re about,” said Nantz.
For the Creekmores, the outcome is the same – a blackened, burned out shell of what was their home.
“I don’t even have a toothbrush or socks,” Mary said. “Our whole life was in there and now it’s just gone.”
Mary said the home contained many antique collections, including hand-painted china that she had collected for many years. Also lost is her Kentucky Derby glasses, decanters and collectibles, as well as her husband’s die cast car collection.
“When you lose a house like this, it’s like a death in your family, especially for a woman,” Mary said. “You go to get your favorite ink pen and it’s gone, the afghan you just finished knitting, it’s gone or something your grandmother left you – a woman considers those her friends and they’re just gone.”