Mehlville Fire late response is rare event

Backup crews come from nearby fire districts if Mehlville trucks are busier

MFPD+Chief+Brian+Hendricks+speaks+at+a+board+meeting+in+2019.

Photo by Erin Achenbach

MFPD Chief Brian Hendricks speaks at a board meeting in 2019.

By Gloria Lloyd, News Editor

The Mehlville Fire Protection District was hindered in its response to a house fire off Tesson Ferry Road this spring because the nearest firetrucks were engaged in mutual aid fighting a hazardous truck fire at that exact time on Interstate 270.

At 12:13 p.m. April 6, a semi truck carrying hazardous materials went up in flames near Interstate 270 and Gravois, near the border between the Mehlville district and the Fenton Fire Protection District.

“That was a fully involved 18-wheeler tractor-trailer truck,” Mehlville Fire Chief Brian Hendricks said. “The thing that makes those so darn dangerous — people have no idea how much hazardous material is transported across our highways on a daily basis. If you had any idea what was on those trucks driving past you, most people probably wouldn’t even get on the highway.”

The call went out as an automatic first alarm fire, which triggered neighboring districts to come in and help fight it. Mehlville sent three of its seven pumpers to that fire, including Pumper Company 1750 from Firehouse No. 5 on Mueller Road in Green Park, along with other trucks and equipment.

With traffic shut down on the highway, firetrucks had to run in and out from that fire because the 400 or 500 gallons of water that each truck carried didn’t go far toward treating that fire, Hendricks noted.

Meanwhile at 12:48 p.m. April 6, the fire district received a 911 call about a house fire on Biddeford Drive off Tesson Ferry Road. The house is 1.5 miles from Engine House No. 4 at 13117 Tesson Ferry and typically would receive a quick response.

The first firetrucks to respond to the Biddeford fire were fire districts from Jefferson County that had “moved up” to Mehlville to provide coverage  — Saline Valley and High Ridge. Mehlville also pulled trucks from 270.

Once the firetrucks got there, they quickly went into action fighting the fire and had it under control in about an hour. Despite high wind speeds that day, the fire was contained to the original house, with some heat damage on a neighbor’s siding, Assistant Chief Dan LaFata said.

The Mehlville chief couldn’t name another time when a house fire has happened at the same time as a major fire like the one at Gravois and 270.

“I can’t name another time that that’s happened,” Hendricks said, adding, “Unfortunately that’s going to happen in any fire district. This was not a mistake of the Mehlville Fire District.— it’s just something that we hope doesn’t happen, but sometimes it does.

“And this is just one of those unfortunate circumstances beyond anybody’s control, where that assignment on the highway absolutely had all the appropriate equipment, absolutely had all the resources there that were needed— this was not an overkill on that highway call.”