Firefighters have deemed the fire on Sunday July 24 suspicious and they say it is being investigated.
Tahlequah Fire Chief Casey Baker said crews were called to reports of an outdoor fire at 4 p.m. Sunday afternoon at Copeland’s Auto Sales. The fire appeared to start where several charred logs were on the property, and Baker said the flames quickly spread from vehicle to vehicle.
“It looks like there were about 10 or 12 vehicles at least, and then there was about seven to eight acres of land that burned,” Baker said.
The chief said a firefighter needed medical attention after collapsing on the job.
Robert Robb, a man claimed to be from Indiana, took to the Daily Press Facebook page to point out that firefighters, who were battling the blaze as temperatures soared past 100 degrees, were not wearing their proper protection : helmet, gloves, breathing apparatus, or an intervention coat.
“Once all the praise is over, someone needs a serious discussion about how to safely respond to a fire. Material things can be replaced, but this idiot can’t,” said Robb in his comment.
Baker said all of the firefighters in attendance Sunday afternoon were equipped with the proper gear, but the extreme temperatures rattled them.
“They have forest firefighting gear that they have to put on, and they get to a point where they become [the fire] halfway under control, and it’s so hot they’re taking it out ASAP,” Baker said.
The firefighter who collapsed was wearing all of his gear, including the response gown.
“He got too hot, and it’s 100 degrees on top of all that gear; it’s a delicate balance,” he said.
The Illinois River Volunteer Fire Department and the Welling Fire Department helped fight the blaze. One structure sustained minimal damage.