Texas firefighter fights restaurant blaze alone before help arrives

The building was saved thanks to the firefighter's early work

By Sara Flores
Beaumont Enteprise

LUMBERTON, Texas — Lumberton firefighter Tony Frye had returned to the firehouse from an emergency medical call shortly before 1 a.m. Friday, when an alarm came in. He headed right back out.

Frye, who also is trained as an EMT, and a paramedic were alone when they arrived at the scene of the fire, the Catfish Cabin restaurant in Lumberton.

When restaurant owner Tim James arrived, he unlocked the door. Frye, suited up in bunker gear, dragged in the heavy fire hose by himself and began to fight the flames in the kitchen.

"He gave us a great head start," Lumberton Fire Chief Jeff McNeal said. "The first few minutes of a fire can make a big difference."

McNeal said that what goes on at the start of fighting a fire is extremely physical, and the fact that Frye unloaded and pulled the heavy fire hose alone proved his strength.

"Normally in a fire this significant we would have to call for assistance, but the quick attack on the fire made it unnecessary," McNeal said.

Frye said he had no choice.

"I know it's not safe to do it alone, but I knew I could make an impact without too much risk," Frye said.

After battling the fire alone for about 6 minutes, he caught sight of two more firefighters, both volunteers with the Lumberton Fire Department, where Frye and McNeal are full-time firefighters.

From then on, a team effort saved James' building.

Frye and the rest of the department fought the fire until 4 a.m.

Because James arrived to open the door, it saved time for Frye, who didn't have to knock in doors or windows.

As for the restaurant, McNeal said it is structurally stable.

James, who has owned the restaurant for 22 years, said he will "clean up, rebuild and reopen."

The restaurant, which employs 25 to 30 employees, sustained heavy damage to the kitchen and utility area.

The dining area had smoke damage.

"I'm numb right now, but I'm not the type of person that feels sorry for myself," James said.

James said he has never had a disaster, aside from Hurricane Rita damage.

"This isn't going to knock us down," James said.

Copyright 2016 the Beaumont Enterprise

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