Around 2:45 p.m. on Tuesday, July 28, a fire roared in a homeowner’s garage at 190321 University Street. The garage belonged to Pearl and Bryce Wilkinson of Scottsbluff.
Scottsbluff Rural Fire Department Chief Paul Reisig said his firefighters were called out for a tree fire and were surprised to find a building and GMC truck on fire when they arrived. Reisig said they called for backup from the Gering Fire Department.
“We had to call for mutual aid because we were prepared for a tree fire better than we were for structure,” Reisig said. “We needed help. On a hot day, too, people wear out really fast.”
Homeowner Pearl Wilkinson’s stepson Jayce Wilkinson said the fire seemed to have begun from a power line that was located underneath Bryce Wilkinson’s out-of-commission GMC truck, which was parked next to their garage. While the couple were at work, one of their sons was in the basement when he heard what sounded like fireworks and looked like lightning.
“I looked out there, and I saw smoke,” Joey Canseco, who also noticed the powerline, said. “It was loud, too.”
At that time, only the truck was smoking.
He alerted his older sister, Arianna Canseco and older stepbrother, Jayce Wilkinson. While Arianna called their mom, Jayce attempted to put out the fire.
“At first, I didn’t want him to do anything because I know water can be worse on some things,” Pearl said. “But out of his own gut, he went out there and tried.”
Pearl, who works at Regional West Physicians Clinic in Scottsbluff, drove straight over to the house. She attempted to call 911, but said she was put on hold. The fire grew and by the time Pearl reached her home, smoke was billowing from the garage. Fortunately, all three children were safe, and the neighbors had also called 911. Bryce, who works in Sidney, did not make it to their home in time to see the fire.
As firefighters arrived, the smoke turned to flames. Pearl said she could not believe how quickly the fire spread.
“I really didn’t think it would get that big. I thought by the time I got there maybe it’d be out,” she said. “It’s not even that hot today either, like it has been, and we haven’t had any problems. So, I just don’t know what it could have been.”
One firefighter on site called the children heroes for their awareness of the whole event.
The fire was put out by 3:48 p.m., at which time the Gering Fire Department left the scene. The Scottsbluff Rural Fire Department had four trucks and 13 firefighters on the scene. The Gering Fire Department brought in two trucks and 12 firefighters.
An investigation into the cause of the fire determined it had been a campfire that had not been extinguished properly.
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