ENJJPT students escape dorm fire; damage estimated at $140,000

SHEPPARD AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- Firefighters and occupants of a Sheppard dormitory contained a fire in the early morning hours of Aug. 18, but not until it caused about $140,000 damage to the structure. 

Four fire crews from Sheppard and one from Wichita Falls responded at 3:25 a.m. to a fire at Bldg. 280. David Mounsey, the assistant chief of fire prevention for Sheppard, said the fire was almost put out before firefighters arrived. 

"There were occupants in the area who were using portable extinguishers to knock down the fire," he said. 

The cause of the fire is still under investigation. The dormitory houses student pilots of the 80th Flying Training Wing's Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training program. 

Mr. Mounsey said the fire was in the stairwell that led to four rooms at the dorm. One occupant was able to escape by using the stairs, but the other three occupants weren't able to get out the same way. 

He said one resident took cushions from a couch, tossed them over the balcony onto the ground, and jumped the short distance because of the intense heat and smoke. Firefighters placed ladders at the windows of the remaining rooms to rescue the other occupants. 

Assistant Chief of Operations Jeff Orf was part of the first crew on scene. He said flames were coming out of the eaves of the structure and smoke from both ends billowed out. 

There was little work for the firefighters as most of the fire was out. Mr. Orf said the crews put out a couple of "spot fires" and then monitored the building until 7 a.m. 

Mr. Mounsey said materials used to construct the building in 1996 also helped contain the fire. He said there aren't too many combustible materials that could fuel the flames in the stairwell. 

The last major structure fire here was in 2000 when an arsonist set fire to the base legal office.