Firefighter hurt in roof collapse recovering

The crew was pulling ceiling to get at an attic fire when the roof collapsed; Capt. Andrus freed himself and got to a window where he was rescued


By Emily Gillespie
The Columbian

YACOLT, Wash. — A Clark County Fire District 13 firefighter is at home recuperating after a roof collapsed on him while fighting a fire earlier this week.

Chuck Andrus, a captain who has spent seven years with the fire agency, was part of a crew working a Yacolt-area house fire Monday, Fire Chief Ben Peeler said.

Crews were called at about 7:40 p.m. to a house in the 27000 block of Northeast Felkel Road. Peeler said that fireworks started the fire, which eventually crawled into the attic.

A crew of four firefighters was inside the rear door pulling ceiling and working to extinguish the blaze when the collapse happened, Peeler said.

Three of the firefighters got swept backwards toward the door while Andrus got pushed into the house, Peeler said.

At that point, crews called for a mayday, Peeler said.

"It was no more than 30 seconds, it felt like hours," he said. "Anytime you have a person missing ... you start thinking worse-case scenarios."

Andrus was knocked to the ground and had the wind knocked out of him, Peeler said. He was able to get his bearings, though, and made it to a front window, Peeler said. Andrus broke out the window and Peeler was among those who ran to help him outside.

Andrus was taken by ambulance to PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center with neck and back pain and a concussion, Peeler said. He stayed overnight for observation and will spend at least a week resting at home, Peeler said.

"In his own words, he said, 'It feels like I was tackled by an NFL linebacker,' " Peeler said.

Another firefighter, who works for Clark County Fire District 10, also was injured by the heavier roofing material falling on him, Peeler said. He took himself to a hospital, Peeler said, where he was evaluated and later released.

Within a few minutes of the collapse, crews were redeployed, Peeler said.

"That few minutes was enough for the attic fire to take the building at that point," he said. The house was a complete loss. The fire reportedly displaced two adults and several children.

Crews had the blaze under control at about midnight but remained at the fire all night long, Peeler said. It wasn't fully contained until 1 p.m. Tuesday.

Clark County Fire Districts 3 and 10 assisted at the scene.

"We couldn't have done it without their help," Peeler said.

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(c)2016 The Columbian (Vancouver, Wash.)

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