By Kathryn “Chazz” Hirschfeld
HAMILTON — Although their extreme measures were not enough to save the life of Hamilton resident Lauren Gilchrist, firefighters with the Hamilton Fire Department certainly gave their best efforts in their attempts to do so.
Gilchrist, 53, died at North Mississippi Medical Center-Hamilton after being extricated from her home during a house fire shortly after 9 a.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 16.
En route and on the scene, firefighters also had to battle perilous conditions, caused by a recent winter storm and lengthy low temperatures in the area.
HFD Assistant Chief Matt McCracken, who is also the fire department’s public information officer, provided the following report.
“Shortly after 9 a.m., we received a call of a structure fire in the 800 block of Second Street Northwest,” he said. “With the extra staffing we had on hand for the winter storm, we had two trucks and four personnel rolling out the door within a minute.”
McCracken noted en route to the fire, firefighters were notified by 9-1-1 with a report there was a disabled person trapped inside the house.
“So that kind of kicked you into high gear,” he noted. “We’re getting there, but we’re having to be safe getting there, because the roads are froze over. There’s nothing special about fire trucks. They slide off in ditches, too.
“So we are being cautious as we respond, and we arrive with two units and four personnel.”
McCracken noted the Hamilton Police Department also responded, and he’d heard Chief Jordan Carter over the radio saying he was headed that way.
“I guess, because we are in a smaller community, we have responded to medical calls at this residence before,” he said. “So when dispatch mentioned somebody trapped, possibly disabled, my mind went exactly to, ‘I know where she’s at.’”
He noted fire department personnel had previously assisted Marion County EMS paramedics over the past few months, when crews were helping Gilchrist, either picking her up or helping put her back in the bed.
“We get there, the first crew takes off into the house, heading toward her bedroom and is literally pushed back out by fire,” he said. “They go back in with a nozzle, while Captain (Eric) Lynch takes the window of the bedroom that we know she’s in.
“Cpt. Lynch and firefighter John McCracken are able to extricate her out of her bedroom (via the window) and get her into the care of Marion County EMS.”
He explained Gilchrist was pronounced deceased a short time after arriving at the local hospital.
McCracken noted as the paramedics began taking care of Gilchrist, firefighters moved from rescue into “let’s fight the fire mode.”
Of note, not only were the roads from the fire department to Gilchrist’s home curvy and hilly, and covered with ice, but the yard the firefighters worked in was also slanted, unlevel and also covered in ice--making their jobs even more treacherous and difficult.
The assistant chief explained, as additional personnel arrived, a total of 15 firefighters were on the scene for approximately three hours extinguishing the fire.
See complete story in the Journal Record.