Injured firefighter treated, released from hospital

September 09, 2003|GARY MOYERS

JUNCTION CITY - A firefighter injured while battling a fatal apartment blaze here early Sunday has been released from the hospital.

Junction City Fire Chief Jimmy Gipson said Brad Murphy, chief of the Moreland Fire Department, suffered injuries to his shoulder, hip and back when he was struck by a falling wall during the fire. He was released from Ephraim McDowell Regional Medical Center Monday.

Gipson said three other Moreland firefighters, Shane Stevens, Bill Deborge and Chris Fischer, were injured when the wall fell, causing the deck they were standing on to collapse. Those three were treated at EMRMC Sunday and released.

Steve Burton, 39, a resident of the apartment building, died of apparent smoke inhalation, according to Boyle County Coroner Dr. James Ramey. Burton's body was sent for an autopsy.


Seven other people in the building escaped, according to Sue High, who manages the apartment with her father, Sam Belcher.

Toby Henderson, a deputy with the Lincoln County Sheriff's Department, and Junction City police officer Anthony Pinkston were the first law enforcement officers on the scene of the 2 a.m. fire at 4535 Old Hustonville Road.

"I had just come off duty from a call in Moreland and was talking to Anthony when a lady drove up and told us there was smoke coming from the building," said Henderson. "We called it in on the way over, and as soon as we got there, we started trying to get people out of the building."

Henderson and Pinkston escorted Leatha Durham and her two children out first.

"We went in the first apartment we saw, upstairs, and we both got the lady and her children outside. That place was full of smoke," said Henderson. "We could barely see in there, and it was very hard to breathe."

Henderson said he and Pinkston attempted to enter the back apartment on the first floor where Burton died, but the flames kept them out.

"The fire was going pretty bad by then, and the smoke was awful," he said. "We made it in about 10 feet and that was as far as we could go."

Burton lived in the apartment with a friend, who was not home at the time of the fire.

Gipson said his department was assisted in its investigation of the fire by officials from the state Fire Marshal's office.

"The investigation is still open, and we don't have an official cause yet," he said.

Gipson said the building is a total loss.

High said future plans for the site are unclear.

"You know, it's just now really hitting us what happened," she said. "It was a total loss, and I don't know about rebuilding there. It's just too early to say."

High said she arrived at the site about 3:30 a.m. and said investigating officers told her a cigarette may have been the cause.

"That's one of the ideas they were talking about, but they don't know for sure yet," she said.

High said the building was insured, but won't cover the loss. "It's a bad thing," she said. "Things can be replaced, but a life can't."

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