Trailer Fire Deaths Take Their Toll on Local Firefighters

by Victor Lopez
NewsWest 9

ODESSA - It takes a great deal of courage to run into a burning building.  Something members of the West Odessa Volunteer Fire Department do without a second thought.  But with five deaths in the first four months of the year, it can certainly take it's toll on everyone.

"We're averaging over 100 runs a month, which is a lot of runs for a volunteer fire department," West Odessa Fire Chief Jimmy Ellis, said.

416 runs and it's only April.   And of those calls, at least 3 have been trailer home fires, and of those, all had at least one fatality.

"Things happen and I understand that, but it's hard on family members, and it's hard on my firemen.  My firemen have a hard time dealing with it sometimes," Ellis said.

But what is it about trailer homes that make them virtual powder kegs?

"Trailer homes burn fast and hot. The one yesterday burned for a long time before it broke out, and somebody saw it.  The trailers houses out here are 30-40 year old trailers.  They are the older style that burn like a match," Ellis said.

Despite their training, knowing their best wasnt enough to save a life can eventually have an impact on these brave men and women.

"It's a strain on my firemen, it's a strain on everybody, but we're very aggressive and that helps a lot.  To me, that's one of the best things we can do, when we try to save what property or any lives we can," Ellis said.

Even though they are a volunteer organization people in West Odessa and Ector County are relying on them more than normal.

"We're headed for a record year, by far.  Normally we run 6-8 hundred runs per year," Ellis added.

And although Ellis expects the number of fire calls to keep going up, he feels much differently about the deaths.

"This is more fatalities than I've seen in a long time, and I hope it's a lot longer before I ever see it again," Ellis said.

Ellis says that due to the housing shortage and the Oil Boom in the area, there's not a lot they can do to keep people out of these fire traps.

They can only do their best to get there as fast as they can, and take care of business.

He added that the newer mobile homes being built now are built to a higher standard, and more fire resistant.