Eau Claire Fire and Rescue
On July 28, 1996, just before 6:00 in the evening, a structure fire was reported on Crestwood Road in Eau Claire. A husband and wife, both in their mid-sixties, had been canning peaches in the kitchen when the fire started.
Engine Nine was the first company on scene and they were being led by Acting Lieutenant Tim McCaughey. They found a single story house with flames and smoke pouring from the front. A neighbor informed them that the couple was still inside and that another neighbor was in the back of the house using a garden hose to try and quell the flames.
Acting Lt. McCaughey had everyone get away from the building and to a safe place. Now they tried to make their way into the home through the front door but found the door was being held shut with great resistance. Using more force, Acting Lt. McCaughey was able to batter the front door in. The resistance was the husband, who had been lying unconscious against the door, mere inches away from the safety of being outside. Time and his partner were able to get the man outside where his care was put in the hands of Engine 2.
The conditions in the home were deteriorating rapidly, and the living room was only seconds away from flashover. Acting Lt. McCaughey radioed that a victim had been removed from the house and ordered a second alarm to bring more help. There was still a woman in the house and time was running short. McCaughey and his crew now re-entered the home to find her, but had to stop searching in order to extinguish the flames that were rolling out of the living room. The fire had also spread to other rooms and the likelihood of finding her was dwindling fast.
With the flames knocked down temporarily, the crew headed down the hallway when a faint moan was heard from the semi-conscious woman, on the bathroom floor. The crew of Engine 9 was able to drag and carry the woman back down the hallway, through the living room and out to the front porch to another crew waiting outside.
With the woman now rescued and in the hands of others, McCaughey and his crew again went back into the burning home to finish searching in case there were others that had not been accounted for. There was no one else in the home and the crew went outside for a much needed break.
As the Eau Claire Fire Department wrote: “Acting Lt. McCaughey displayed exemplary acts of bravery, cool thinking, courage, and utter determination that day and refused to let a raging fire take the lives of two people.”
Although both of the people suffered serious injuries from smoke and flames, both went on to recover, due largely to the heroic efforts of Acting Lt. McCaughey and other members present from Eau Claire Fire and Rescue.