Concern Grows Over Odessa Trailer Fires

By Jen Kastner
NewsWest 9

ODESSA- The Basin housing crisis is causing more of the incoming workforce to settle for temporary trailers. Many of these workers are just looking for a quick fix and a roof over their heads and have never lived in trailers.

The Odessa Fire Department (OFD) believes some of them lack the understanding of how to maintain a trailer, which can lead to potentially dangerous situations. OFD believes this may be why the city of Odessa has recently been responding to several more trailer home fires.

"I remember being in the whole engulfment [of flames] and there was nothing but fire everywhere and all that was on my mind was to get out," Joel Hutchison said.

In August, his Odessa trailer went up in flames. He was covered in second and third degree burns and fell into a coma for nearly a month but he pushed through. Just days ago, he was released from a burn unit in Lubbock. Skins grafts were taken from all over his thighs. Scars cover his arms.

Hutchison says his trailer fire was caused by a gas leak. He couldn't smell it, but when he lit a match, a ferocious flame started inside the trailer.

Detra White is the Fire Marshal for the City of Odessa. She says, "Recreational vehicles and travel trailers are very small and you have little time to escape and so it's not like a conventional home."

In 2011, OFD responded to one trailer fire. So far in 2012, OFD has responded to nine trailer fires.

Officials believe more Basin workers are quick to rent trailers for housing but don't think to check for problems.

"[They stem from] electrical to gas connections. There's just a variety," White said.

OFD is encouraging renters to do their research and find certified maintenance workers to inspect their structures.

If a flame ignites, OFD advises against trying to put out the flames.

Battalion Chief Kevin Doan says, "My suggestion is to get out right away. They're not built like regular homes. They go up rather quickly."