John Withrow and his son used two hoses to douse the back of their house and the neighbors' to keep them from igniting when the back of a nearby house was quickly engulfed in flames Thursday in southeast Lexington.
But the intense fire and proximity of the houses were too much. The siding of both houses melted despite the water, Withrow said. In total, six houses were damaged, and 3332 Hibernia Pass was destroyed, fire department Maj. Matt Galati said.
"They're just built too close together," Withrow said. "It went up like a matchstick, really, really hot and really, really quick."
As with Withrow's rented house on Bay Springs Park and the one next door that he was house-sitting, most of the damage to neighboring houses was melted siding from the heat of the fire. The area is outside Man o' War Boulevard, near Interstate 75 and not far from Hamburg.
"The heat was so intense it took your breath away," said Marques McMurry, who lives near the fire. His house wasn't damaged.
The city's Code Enforcement Division inspected the damaged houses and found they didn't need to be condemned after being subjected to the heat from the destroyed house, according to a city news release. In general, houses that sit the standard 6 feet apart must be able to withstand heat for roughly an hour. The fire's cause was being investigated.
There were no injuries, Battalion Chief Jeff Nantz said. Neighbors said residents of the first house knocked on doors to get people out of the nearby houses.
Firefighters were briefly delayed in getting water on the fire because of a malfunction in the pump of the first engine to arrive, a little after 5:50 a.m., Nantz said. But a second engine was close behind.
"That's why we always send multiple engines," Galati said. "Anything that's mechanical can break."
When the first firefighters arrived, the rear of the house was completely in flames, Galati said. It's unclear whether any of the damage could've been prevented had the pump not malfunctioned.
"A lot of the damage had already been done," Galati said. "I don't know if the overall outcome would've changed."
The house also was situated equally distant from the fire hydrants in the area, Galati said. None of the hydrants was close.
The fire started in the back of the first house.
"The back half of the house is completely unstable," Galati said. "It's basically just hanging in space."
The house will have to be torn down and rebuilt, he said. Community services were called to help the family find a place to stay.
Only some contents of the garage were salvageable, Galati said.