4 are killed in Scott City house fire

By Rod Haxton, editor

Even 48 years as a firefighter can’t prepare one for the tragedy that killed four Scott City residents early Saturday morning.

“You deal with a lot of fires over the years and any time you come up on something like this you’re just hoping that everyone is out of the house,” says Scott City Fire Chief Ken Hoover.

That was not the case for Jackie Coberly and her four-year-old son, Brandon, and two step-daughters, Terra Murphy, 8, and Cassie Murphy, 6, who were unable to escape a fire from their two-bedroom rental in the 1100 block of Church Street.

According to the Law Enforcement Center dispatching log, the 911 call from Coberly was received at 7:14 a.m. and the fire department arrived at the scene seven minutes later. Police Officer Joe Conner was the first person at the scene and tried to enter the home through the front door but was turned back because of heavy smoke.

Preliminary indications are that a radiator heater in the laundry room, in the southwest corner of the home, was the source of the fire. The fire apparently swept toward the front entrance, preventing anyone from escaping the two bedrooms on the west side of the house.

A bedroom immediately north of the laundry room was shared by Terra and Cassie while Jackie and Brandon were in the northwest bedroom. Jeff Murphy, Jackie’s boyfriend, had left for work at about 6:00 a.m. and a caregiver who normally helped Coberly and the children in the morning hadn’t arrived yet.

“Most of the flames seemed to be confined to the back of the home,” says Hoover. “There was a lot of smoke.”

When firefighters first arrived, Hoover says there was confusion about whether or not people were trapped inside the home. He says initial reports are that a caregiver was outside the home and was “pretty hysterical.”

Some have questioned whether the department reacted quickly enough in an effort to rescue the victims who were trapped inside.

“They should have entered the home with a 2-1/2 inch attack line. The initial response should have been two or three guys on the line,” says Daniel Jones, a former level 3 firefighter with the Seymour (Tenn.) Volunteer Fire Department who was on the scene when the first truck arrived. “I don’t believe that everything was done that could have been done to save them.”

Hoover says the department followed standard procedure when confronted with a structure fire.

“If you send firemen into a building that’s engulfed in fire you’re going to end up with more casualties,” he said. “It’s always been our practice to send in two (firemen) with a charged line.”

The fire chief said it was quickly evident they weren’t going to rescue the home’s occupants through the front door. Firemen were eventually able to pull the victims through the bedroom windows.

One of the children was reported dead at the scene while the mother and two other children were LifeWatched to Wichita where they died Saturday afternoon.

It’s an event that all local emergency personnel are being forced to live over and over, whether meeting among themselves or filling out reports for the State Fire Marshal. Hoover says an investigator with the Fire Marshal’s office is conducting interviews and that process should be finished Wednesday night.

“It will probably be several weeks before we know (the Fire Marshal’s) findings,” says Hoover.

This is the first fire casualty in Scott City since the mid-1970s, says Hoover who was on the department at the time. A young boy died of smoke inhalation in a trailer home east of the high school.

“This is something the guys will all talk out. Emotionally, it’s very tough,” says Hoover, who was fighting back emotions of his own. “At first, maybe it doesn’t bother you so much because you have a job to do. But the more you think about it the more it wears on you. You can’t help but question whether we did enough, or whether we could have done more. It’s something we’ll be discussing at future fire meetings.”

Hoover is quick to add, however, that it’s tough on everyone - from the doctors, to the EMS staff to the police and the firefighters.

He’s also hopeful that the tragedy will help people think about what they would do if there is a fire in their home. That includes having smoke detectors - and testing them twice a year when the time changes - along with an exit strategy.

“And make sure that you’ve identified a safe place for everyone to gather outside the home,” says Hoover. “That way we know immediately whether or not someone is still inside.”

It’s all good advice. And it’s advice that people might take seriously . . . for awhile.

“But, a month from now, who’s going to remember?” asks Hoover. “People will be back to the same old thinking that this could never happen to them . . . until it does.”

User Comments

  • Volunteers

    "Rod, I was not in Scott City at the time of this terrible tragedy. It is not my place nor do I have the qualifications to judge the response of the volunteer fire department (nor your reporting for that matter). I do, however, feel qualified to comment on the extraordinary people that volunteer their time and put their lives in danger for us. I had the opportunity to see Ken Hoover and his men in action more than once over my 20 years in Scott City. I walked a burned out home with a casualty many years ago in Shallow Water with Ken. I was at more than one scene with them and interacted countless times with them at the hospital. I can tell you with absolute conviction that they are dedicated, well-trained and have my full confidence and respect. I am thankful for each and every one of them. I am also confident that law enforcement and the hospital staff acted in an exemplary and professional manner. I never saw otherwise in all my years working with them. I commend them as well for what would have been a very difficult situation. "
  • Fire Department

    "Scott City has a volunteer fire department. It takes the fire fighters some time to get from their homes or work to the fire station. Then they have to get to the fire. I am sure these men did the best they could. I am truly sorry for the loss of these 4 lives."
  • response wtf

    "You are putting down people who tried to help, where was the caregiver? Why would you leave 3 small children with a quadraplegic? Isn't that like leaving them alone? If you want answers start there!!"
  • Volenteer Firemen

    "Am I wrong or does Scott City not have a volenteer fire department? This would mean these men have other jobs and maybe it takes time to get dressed, get to the fire department, get gear on, and get to the fire.....I think give the time table they did a very good job, and I praise them for their work, and thank them for volenteering for a job that some it seem in your town do not appreciate. I wonder what the person that made the insulting commenett has done in their life to volenteer to help mankind. "
  • Response to W.T.F

    "Clearly you have NO idea what you are talking about. From someone who heard the page go out and KNOW when the sirens went, you need to shut the HELL up! The fire department does not get a MEMO about the 911 call so they have no clue what to expect when arriving to the scene. And yes they are volunteer but those men are VERY MUCH trained and training all the time! You can never train enough for something this terrible, but those men do their best!! This "thing" is not BS, this "thing" is a very tragic and devasting dissaster that NO ONE ever expects to happen. "
  • Fire

    "Does ANYONE besides me think it an amazing and very strange coincidence that an expert in the field of firefighting just happened to be at the scene of the deadliest house fire in the history of Scott City? In addition to his expertise in fire department procedure, he must have either incredible intuition or he spends his life parked in front of a scanner %u2013 possibly with fingers (and who knows what other body parts?) orange from his bag of cheese doodles. Does this expert live in Scott City? And if he does, why is he not involved with our fire department? I would think if he is indeed such an expert that he can offer such critical conclusions before even the State Fire Marshall can complete his report, then this expert would indeed be an invaluable asset to our local fire department. I wouldn%u2019t dream of suggesting that this so-called expert is really nothing but a wannabe who has been rejected by our local fire department and just about every other fire department he has tried to involve himself with. For a true professional, even if he had serious concerns about the performance of a responding fire department, and who knows so much about the appropriate way to fight a fire, would also know that there is an appropriate way in which to raise such concerns in a constructive manner that, instead of leveling reckless accusations, seeks the truth without calling attention to himself. Instead, this guy takes a cheap shot from the sidelines where %u2013 again by some AMAZING coincidence %u2013 he just happened to be at the moment of the tragedy. And I certainly would never dream of suggesting anything more sinister %u2013 like the notion that an amazing number of arson cases turn out to be the result of a seriously misguided firefighter thinking he could create his own opportunity to be a hero. Such an accusation, IF I or anyone else were to make it (which I most definitely am NOT), offered from the sidelines, would only be destructive to our community and offer no real path to solving any problems that might exist. And I know %u201CThe Record%u201D would never rely on the expertise of such a person as that. Thank goodness we don%u2019t have to worry about this. I would personally LOVE to see the detailed credentials of your expert, compared side by side with those of Scott City%u2019s Fire Chief and Assistant Fire Chief. "
  • Wow

    "Totally inappropriate, Rod. Find some random guy that claims to be a firefighter from some other place that has no clue about departmental SOPs and interview him? Wow. Total rubbish. Not every battle can be won, and by trash talking the local SCFD members only infuriates your customers. And Amanda K? You obviously are an expert. Maybe Rod should have interviewed you. My suggestion is to shut your mouth and not speak on subjects that you have no clue on. Or perhaps if you can do better, join up. Im sure someone as fast and capable as you would have no problems doing the work you claim to be an expert in. Terrible loss, my thoughts and prayers to friends and family. SCFD - well done, my brothers."

  • Embarrased!

    "People Stop! Scott City is dealing with enough right now! The family is mourning the loss of loved ones and really do not need this negativity, I assure you the the firefighters, EMTs, and hospital staff did whatever they could. This kind of tragedy takes a toll on everyone. Be kind to one another. We are a small community and need to pull together in an event like this! So embarrasing to see our "All American City" act like this! Do not believe everything you hear! Please for everyones sake stop! Be supportive of our small town! We have an EXCELLENT volunteer fire and EMS dept and an extrodinary hospital staff! Good job to those involved! I will continur praying for the family,friends, hospital, EMS, and fire departments!"
  • Fire

    "I am praying for those Firefighter ,EMS and all involved in the care of this family.Such a terrible thing to happen in my hometown.If the firefighters need more training then the taxes must be raised for it Or maybe there is some kind of grant that could be used."
  • W.T.F

    "Jackie called 911 @ 7:14, witnesses put officer Conner there @ approx 7:20, and the first fire truck was there about 10 min after Conner. It was like 16-20min, before they got water to her house. Unbelievable, what took so long? Get it together Scott City. This truely is a tragedy that could have been helped. Move your ass law enforcement, and fire department, I am so disappointed in the outcome. An emergency is just that,an emergency. You dont call 911 for fun. Why was there confusion about if there were people inside, Jackie called her self, crying out, begging for help. Ya'll better get some better communication, and trainning going, because this whole thing is BS. To the family, and friends, I'm so sorry for your loss. They will all be sorely missed. "
  • Mrs.

    " My heart goes out to everyone involved in the tragedy. I will pray that the Lord will help the family work thru the pain of loss. God Bless."

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