Originally created 07/20/02

Fire destroys homes



Fire gutted two houses on Riviera Drive on Saturday afternoon and radiated enough heat to overcome an Augusta-Richmond County firefighter.

The firefighter - whose name was not released - suffered heat exhaustion and was taken to Medical College of Georgia Hospital, said Chief Howard Willis, the special operations chief and safety officer for the fire department.

"He's conscious, (and) he's talking," the chief said.

The blaze started in 2007 Riviera Drive at 2:42 p.m., Chief Willis said. Strong winds caused the fire to spread to 2005 Riviera Drive a short time later, he said.

Georgia Gerard, a neighbor, said a man spotted the flames as he was driving in the neighborhood. She said the man honked his car horn and knocked on people's doors.

Oleg Eisenstein, whose home at 2003 Riviera Drive was damaged by the fire, said he heard the man and tried to put the flames out with buckets of water.

"It was already to the roof by then," Mr. Eisenstein said.

About 20 firefighters, five pumpers and two tanker trunks were dispatched, Chief Willis said. Firefighters laid a double line on each fire hydrant and were able to extinguishe the blaze within an hour.

As the fire died out firefighters visibly overwhelmed by the high temperatures gathered around a water cooler. A paramedic from Rural/Metro Ambulance guided some firefighters to a shaded area, distributed water and soaked the back of their necks with wet towels.

Chief Willis said the flames didn't spread to adjoining homes because of firewalls separating them. The flames did, however, cause damage to neighboring homes such as the one owned by Mr. Eisenstein.

"I'm really (upset) since my house was suppose to close for the future owner ... Aug. 9," said Mr. Eisenstein, who had arrived in Augusta this weekend to move belongings out of his home. "What am I supposed to do now?"

Chief Willis said he did not know where the fire started in 2007 Riviera Drive. The cause of the fire will be investigated, he said.

Reach Albert Ross at (706) 823-3339 or albert.ross@augustachronicle.com.