Garden hose battles blaze

Firefighter, off duty, helps save house

Advocate staff writer

An off-duty firefighter battled a house fire with a garden hose Friday morning, containing the blaze until crews arrived, fire officials said.
Michael Schenk, who drives fire engines for the Baton Rouge Fire Department, said he was running an errand on Plank Road near Mohican Street around 10:30 a.m. when he saw smoke.

Schenk said that when he pulled up to the back of a house at 4056 Mayan St., he could see smoke pouring through the roof. He kicked out a fence board to get into the backyard and found a woman repeating, "My house is on fire."

After searching the house to make sure no one was inside, Schenk grabbed a garden hose and doused the fire, which was burning in a back bedroom, until fire crews arrived minutes later.

"It just makes me feel good to actually help somebody," said Schenk, who also works as a district captain for Fire Protection District 4 in Walker. "That's my job and I enjoy doing it."

Schenk shrugged off his actions, saying that instinct kicked in as soon as he saw the smoke and that he was glad he could prevent a catastrophe for a family right before the holidays.

The fire, likely started by a faulty hot water heater, caused about $3,000 worth of damage. It could have been much worse if not for Schenk's quick action, Baton Rouge Fire Department spokesman Howard Ward said.

"A fire can rage in a matter of minutes, and we normally respond in three to four minutes, so minutes are crucial," he said. "I feel that (Schenk) probably kept the fire from getting into the attic and making it a greater fire than it was.

While Ward was careful to say that the department does not teach firefighters to go into a blaze without equipment, he praised Schenk for his efforts.

"It was very nice of him," he said.

While the fire caused only minor damage, the house's electrical system was damaged, and the four people living there are getting help from the American Red Cross until they can move back in, Ward said.