Lumberton family loses house to fire, blames firefighters for loss

LUMBERTON, MS (WDAM) - Ronald Sanders and his fiancee spent the day Wednesday digging through the rubble of their home looking for what they could salvage after an overnight fire.

Sanders says the home is a total loss and the family lost most of their possessions and he is blaming firefighters for what he called their unprofessional approach to fighting the fire.

He says the damage to his home could have been far less if not for a series of events starting with the fire department response time.

"At about 11:45 p.m. we called 911 and it was 12:26 a.m. Wednesday before the first engine arrived and started putting water on the fire," said Sanders.

Lumberton Fire Chief Jerry Walters said he was personally on the scene with-in ten minutes of the dispatch. He said they were having problems getting the engine started back at the station and he called for mutual aid from Lamar and Pearl River Counties.

Records indicate that South East Lamar was the first to arrive at 12:07 a.m. followed by Lumberton, North East Pearl River, and South West Lamar.

"About 4:30 a.m. this morning all of the fire departments withdrew with exception of Lumberton," said Sanders. "Somebody from the Lumberton Fire Department made a comment that they weren't happy about it because they left them with a lot of hot spots in the house."

Walters agreed the assisting fire departments did pull out at around 4:30 a.m. He said the fire was contained and his crew was left to put out the hot spots.Walters added they left at around 5:45 a.m. believing the fire was out. He said they intended to return during daylight hours when they would have better access to the attic where the fire was centered.

"They probably weren't gone 15 minutes when I attempted to make entry into the house to retrieve some things," said Sanders. "When I went back inside I noticed a lot of flames at the rear of the house."

Sanders says he tried to call the fire department back but couldn't reach them. He then called the Lumberton Police and they arrived in about 10-minutes. He says it was another 10-minutes before Walters returned to the scene.

"There's no fire engine in sight. I guess after about 15-minutes I was getting a little upset and I asked if anybody was coming to put the fire out," said Sanders. "It was getting out of control at this point."

Walters said it took a little time to get the fire truck back to the scene because it was at the station getting refilled with water and getting the air tanks for firefighters refilled. He added this was a very difficult fire to fight because the shingle roof was covered by tin and the ceilings were made of plywood.

A ladder truck was brought in from Lamar County early in the morning to help get the tin off the roof and get better access to the fire.

Firefighters finally were able to clear the scene at around 10 a.m.

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