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Fire department hails local heroes

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By Carol A. Clark

Flames raging from a chimney top at 10-A Verde Ridge Thursday night caught the attention of nearby residents Mark and Martha Katko. They knocked on the condominium door and alerted the family of six whom all got out alive and uninjured.“Not only did the Katkos call us but they went to the home and alerted the residents inside — they are our local heroes,” Assistant Fire Chief/Fire Marshal Mike Thompson said.Battalion Chief Richard Garcia agreed, saying that without the Katkos’ quick actions, the outcome could have been very different.The fire department dropped a “chimney bomb” down from the top of the chimney, Thompson said. The plastic bag filled with a dry powder extinguisher hits the bottom of the fireplace and blows back up the flue, putting out the fire along the way, he said. Thompson described a clue people should listen to that may indicate a chimney is on fire is a roaring sound similar to a freight train or jet engine starting up.Martha Katko said this morning that she and her husband were impressed with how fast the family vacated their home.“They clearly knew what to do,” she said. “The children came out with their socks on, not taking time to look for shoes. We were very impressed and told the children so.”The Katkos do not feel that they are heroes.“It’s not like we entered a smoke-filled home,” Martha said. “The firefighters and police are the ones we’re impressed with. What a good job they did, the home wasn’t damaged and the whole thing was over in about 45 minutes.”The call came in at 8:01 p.m., Garcia said, adding that Engine 6 arrived at the scene at 8:05 p.m.“The parents and four children had been inside watching television and had no idea the chimney was on fire,” he said. “This is a good example of what can happen when a chimney isn’t serviced regularly.”The family moved into the condo in September and don’t know the service history, according to Garcia.Both Garcia and Thomson stressed the importance of yearly professional chimney cleaning. This is the worst time of year for chimney fires because of winter usage.Creosote or soot builds up in chimney linings and when ignited can reach temperatures of 2,000 degrees, Thompson said. Combustible roofs and roofs covered with pine needles and other debris are also a hazard and should be cleaned, Thompson said.The Red Cross and the Fire Department Chaplain arrived at the scene to rendered support to the family, Garcia said, adding that the parents entered their home at about 10 p.m. and their children spent the night with neighbors.