Omaha firefighters battled two vacant house fires early Thursday afternoon, both in South Omaha, in some tough, hot conditions.
A 90-minute battle in stuffy conditions at the blaze near Fourth and Center Streets in southeast Omaha took a toll on firefighters, who responded to the scene about 1 p.m. and reported heavy smoke on approach from the second floor of the purple, single-family residence at the top of a long, steep hill.
No injuries were reported, other than one firefighter who suffered a “heat episode,’’ said assistant fire Chief Steve Ausdemore.
The 90-degree temperature forced firefighters to strip off their heavy gear and take breaks. One firefighter had an IV attached to his arm and five to six others recovered in shade under trees with cool cloths on their heads and Gatorade.
“We’ve been in there twice already,’’ said a modest firefighter from truck 34’s crew who didn’t want his name used.
After two trips into the house, he said, firefighters earned a 30-minute break before returning if needed.
“It was just hard to get to,’’ he added about the fire at 424 Center Street, which was partially hidden by weeds and underbrush overgrowth.
The firefighter said he would rather battle a blaze in mid-January that in hot May.
“It’s easier to stay warm,’’ he said, “than to cool off.’’
Ausdemore agreed with the firefighter about the hot conditions.
“They just can’t cool off.’’ he said.
A neighbor said she believed that the house had been vacant for months.
“I haven’t seen anybody in there for at least two months,’’ said the neighbor who also asked that her name not be used.
“That house has been there all my life,’’ she said, adding that she turns 81 next month. “It saddens me. I don’t know how you could save it.’’
Authorities shut down some streets in the neighborhood to allow firefighters to handle the situation.
Ausdemore said firefighters believed that the home was vacant, but they were still searching two hours later “in case there were transients or kids in there.’’
There was some damage to an addition to the rear of the home, he said, and reports that an explosion may have caused the fire were false. Ausdemore said he didn’t know the cause.
A short time after 1 p.m., firefighters were dispatched to a fire at a mobile home near 63rd and Grover Streets.
The mother and son who share the mobile home were not home at the time. Firefighters kicked in the door to rescue the family’s dog.
The mobile home is not inhabitable, firefighters said.
They said the cause of the fire likely won’t be determined for at least a couple of days because of the amount of clutter inside the mobile home.
Officials also were unable to determine the cause of the southeast Omaha blaze.
House fire at 5th and Center Streets: