Two weeks after Macon-Bibb County fire Lt. Randy Parker perished in a house fire, the firefighters battling the blaze with him are sharing their stories of that night.
Agents from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are interviewing crew members who fought the Feb. 11 fire at 2320 Fairview Drive.
“This is standard procedure with any fire,” said Ashley Lightner, resident agent in charge of the bureau’s Macon office. “This is the first time we have talked to the firefighters.”
Ordinarily investigators question crews shortly after a blaze, but firefighters were given time to grieve and cope with Parker’s death.
Firefighters are routinely asked to describe what they saw when they arrived at a fire and share any other insight in presenting a full picture of what happened.
Preliminary reports indicated investigators thought the fatal fire spread from a burn barrel near the woods line of the property.
Eyewitness accounts from the firefighters can help confirm any findings investigators might have reached by combing the property last week.
An excavator dismantled part of Don and Kathy Coffey’s house to access the basement, which erupted in flames after the fire was believed to be under control.
The firefighters’ experiences might fill in crucial gaps in physical evidence and provide further clues for investigators to study and document.
Various reports from the scene that night indicated crews thought they had knocked down and contained the blaze to the carport side of the house.
A Macon-Bibb fire investigator already had gone inside the house to take pictures as firefighters thought the worst of the battle was behind them.
With heat coming from the basement, Parker and others suited up to knock a vent hole in the floor, but it gave way.
Parker died, trapped in debris, but other firefighters were rescued and taken to the hospital.
All but Battalion Chief Stephen Stafford have been released.
Stafford continues to improve at the Joseph M. Still Burn Center in Augusta, and firefighter Adam Michie receives ongoing outpatient care for burns on his hands and leg.
No attempts have been made “at this time” to question Stafford, Lightner said.
Agents were expected to complete their firefighter interviews Wednesday and compile a report within a week for the certified fire investigators working on the case.
Lightner said there is no effective way to estimate how long the investigation will take.
“We have no timetable on it,” he said. “It depends on the circumstances.”
To contact writer Liz Fabian, call 744-4303.