Altus couple loses home in fire

An Altus couple was celebrating a birthday on Labor Day when a fire struck their home.  The Altus Police Department says it was the couple's barbecue grill that started the fire, but the family argues that if that were the case, they would have put it out and saved their home.

The couple and the Altus Police have been battling about the true cause of the fire that destroyed the home.  Gwen Raiden and her family say the fire department didn't do enough to save their home.  In fact, they're blaming faulty equipment.  And, they say, the inadequate hydrants weren't pumping out enough water.  Gwen says they left with only the clothes on their backs.

Raiden says they were inside their home and family members were barbecuing outside when they noticed a popping sound in the garage area.  They next thing they knew, there were flames coming out of the same area.  They had only lived there for a little over a month and had moved in after Gwen inherited it from her father.  "Three units could not put out the grass fire," she said.  "That's letting you know right there that the Altus Fire Department is not up to par.  They are not doing their job," she said.

Altus Fire Chief Junior Wheeler says they did have problems, but it didn't prevent them from doing their job.  He says the fire was already out of control and the only problem they had was with one hydrant that wouldn't shut off.  Raiden says she wonders if low water pressure and problems with the fire hose connection played a factor in the firefighter's difficulty putting out the flame.

She says there are still a lot of unanswered questions and she wants another investigation to look into the cause of the fire.  The Altus Fire Department says it was their opinion that a burning amber from the grill had blown into the garage and ignited some fuel, but, Chief Wheeler says, with the family's permission, he will indeed launch another investigation.  "If we can put their mind at ease, that's what we'll do," he said.