Surrounding agencies jump to help as Mesquite firefighters battle blazes, emergencies on multiple fronts

A second-floor apartment is destroyed in a structure fire reported on Hardy Street in Mesquite, Nev., June 6, 2019 | Photo courtesy of Mesquite Fire and Rescue, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — Emergency responders in Mesquite, Nevada, were stretched to the limit Thursday when multiple fires and medical incidents were reported within an hour and a half of each other.

Firefighters from multiple agencies respond to four fires on Interstate 15 between mile marker 118 and 121 near Mesquite, Nev., June 6, 2019 | Photo courtesy of Mesquite Fire and Rescue, St. George News

The mayhem began at 2:48 p.m. PST when Mesquite Fire and Rescue responded with two ambulances to a person reporting extreme difficulty breathing. Meanwhile, emergency dispatchers began receiving multiple calls reporting brush fires along Interstate 15.

Less than 12 minutes after the medical call, crews were on their way to the fires reported on the southbound side of the freeway, and a broadcast for assistance was sent out to nearby agencies. Mesquite firefighters arrived and began battling three separate fires burning along the interstate and were soon joined by crews from Arizona’s Beaver Dam/Littlefield Fire District and Clark County’s Bunkerville fire station.

Due to the fire’s wide coverage area, the Bureau of Land Management in Nevada also dispatched two wildland fire units to assist crews battling multiple blazes.

Less than 15 minutes after the fires were reported, crews were called out to a reported fall in Mesquite with heavy bleeding, Mesquite Fire Capt. Spencer Lewis said. After transporting the patient to the hospital, they returned to the freeway to continue battling the brush fire.

When the Nevada BLM crews arrived, they took command of two of the brush fires still burning along the I-15 corridor. During the transition, a structure fire was reported involving a two-story building with an animal-care business on the ground floor and apartments on the second.

A second-floor apartment is destroyed after a structure fire reported on Hardy Street in Mesquite, Nev., June 6, 2019 | Photo courtesy of Mesquite Fire and Rescue, St. George News

Firefighters arrived to find a great deal of smoke and fire coming from the second floor, and the animals were being evacuated from the ground-floor business. Thanks to the quick actions of the animal care employees with help from several animal techs at Virgin Valley Veterinary Hospital who saw smoke and ran toward the building to help, nearly all of the animals were safely evacuated.

“Unfortunately, a cat and one of the birds were lost in the fire,” Lewis said.

Firefighters tackled the blaze on the second floor as it began to threaten the ground floor. The effort was complicated by the building’s location, which was far away from any fire hydrants, making it necessary to pull more than 2,000 feet of supply hose.

Once the fire was extinguished, the building was inspected, and an unlikely survivor was discovered.

“We found a chameleon that somehow got missed during the evacuation, but surprisingly, he was still alive and actually looked like he was doing okay,” Lewis said.

As firefighters continued checking for hot spots inside the building, some of the animals were transported to the Mesquite Animal Shelter, while the remainder were housed and cared for at Virgin Valley Veterinary Hospital.

One man living on the second floor was treated at the scene for smoke inhalation. Once treated, he received assistance from an American Red Cross disaster team. He also received help from the staff at Eureka Casino, who Lewis said “graciously let him stay for the night.”

The building sustained extensive fire, water and smoke damage, with most of the fire-related damage confined to the second floor.

Crews mop up fires on I-15

Back on the interstate, a fourth fire ignited near mile marker 120 in Nevada just as crews had the first three brush fires contained.

Firefighters respond to multiple fires on Interstate 15 between mile marker 118 and 121 near Mesquite, Nev., June 6, 2019 | Photo courtesy of Mesquite Fire and Rescue, St. George News

The fourth fire was extinguished a short time later, but crews remained in the area of all four scenes through Friday to extinguish any hot spots that could potentially reignite later.

Investigators found two likely causes of the four fires reported less than a mile apart.

The first suspected cause involved a possible dragging trailer chain that heated up and threw sparks as it continued along the interstate. The second potential cause could have been a blown semitractor-trailer tire, which Lewis said could have sent the steel bands within the tire flying in all directions. If one or more of those bands were to land on dry vegetation, it could cause ignition.

“Those are typically two of the most common causes of fires that start along a highway or interstate,” Lewis said.

Lewis said these kinds of fires are especially dangerous because the smoke can obscure drivers’ views, particularly when it’s a dense black smoke, as was the case Thursday.

While Mesquite Fire and Rescue was ground-zero for all of the reported incidents, Lewis said the successful outcome in each incident was thanks to the many agencies and businesses that provided mutual aid when and where it was needed most.

Assisting agencies and businesses included Mesquite Police, the city’s Community Emergency Response Team, Beaver Dam/Littlefield Fire District, Clark County Fire in Bunkerville, Nevada BLM, Virgin Valley Veterinary Hospital, American Red Cross and Eureka Hotel and Casino.

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