Rural Two-Story Turn of the Century Waverly Home Burns in Massive Fire

By Benjamin Cox on June 7, 2023 at 6:23pm

A pile of rubble is all that remains of the balloon-frame style home in rural Waverly.

A large two-story home in rural Waverly burned to the ground in a massive firefight involving multiple departments on Sunday afternoon.

Initial calls of a garage fire at 3159 State Highway 104, about 2.5 miles northwest of Waverly came in just after 12:15 Sunday afternoon. Waverly Fire Chief Jason Shumaker says that because the fire department had just cleared a call approximately 15 minutes earlier, they were able to quickly respond to the rural home: “By the time the 9-1-1 call went out in just a short time, the garage was fully involved. The time it took us to get out there, which was very fast because we had just cleared another call probably 10 minutes prior, the fire had already gotten to the house and it just went from there.”

Shumaker says the homeowners were at the residence at the time of the fire, but not inside once the home became fully involved. Shumaker says the fire fight, due to the extreme heat and the composition of the structure, lasted for nearly 24 hours: “Firefighters were on scene there during the day most of the day, and once they felt they had it controlled and out and started cleaning up, they noticed more fire had started up. It was kind of continuous, especially on the second floor where the roof had collapsed. Smoke would dissipate and would be gone and then, it would just come right back. That’s when the officers on the scene got together and decided to have a machine brought in and knock what was left of the second-story structure down to basically kind of control the fire to an area that they could have control over due to the trees, bushes; there was also a barn and some other things in the general area. Rather than causing the fire to spread and go any further to any of the other structures or the trees to get down into the woods on the hillside, it was decided to go that route.”

Shumaker says that the firefight almost took all of the water reserves from the City of Waverly and the Village of Franklin to suppress the blaze. Mutual aid to the scene was given by the Alexander, Franklin, Murrayville, Woodson, and South Jacksonville fire departments.

To slightly complicate some of the matters were a series of water main breaks in Waverly. Shumaker says that Waverly municipal employees were able to quickly fix those issues and keep water flowing for everyone. Shumaker says that firefighters were called back to the scene overnight Sunday and early Monday morning for continued kindling: “It was one of those fires that just would not go out. We made an attempt to try and use some foam on it over night. Of course, we were called back the next morning because it had started burning again and we had to control it again to keep it from getting into the woods.”

Shumaker says that everyone did a phenomenal job in a tough situation: “For everybody on scene, they did a heckuva job in spite of the heat, the fire, the intensity of the heat from the fire. It was an older structure so they used a lot of oak and hardwoods, so they have a tendency to burn much hotter. Some of the materials that they used between 80-100 years ago were a lot different and they just burn hotter. For everything they had against them, they did a heck of a job.”

No injuries were reported in the blaze. No specific cause of the fire is known is at this time, but Shumaker says it is not suspicious in nature. Shumaker also is thankful for several community members who brought fresh water to firefighters on the scene to keep them from overheating and getting sick.