A local man dedicated to saving lives is now fighting for his own after receiving burns to 90 percent of his body in a Friday night house fire on Water Plant Road.
Arlie “Pooh” Hill III, 37, was at the home of his neighbor and brother-in-law, Adam Stephens, around 10:30 p.m. when they noticed a fire down the road.
Both men serve as lieutenants with the Whitley City Volunteer Fire Department. They called it in and went to investigate.
According to Pine Knot Fire Chief Tim Cox, the fire was located at the former residence of Allen “Pooh” Ball. As the Ball family was still in the process of moving, Hill and Stephens feared that there might be someone in the home. As they attempted to enter the house, a “flashover” (or burst of flame caused by heat buildup from the growing fire) trapped Lt. Hill in the living room and blew Lt. Stephens to the porch floor.
Stephens was able to grab Hill and get clear of the structure. While suffering burns to his face and arms, Lt. Stephens did not require immediate medical transport. Lt. Hill, however, had burns covering at least 90 percent of his body. He was airlifted first to the University of Kentucky Medical Center, then to the University of Cincinnati Medical Center, where he remained at press time in critical condition.
In addition to McCreary County EMS and Pine Knot Fire Department (in whose district the structure was located), Kentucky State Police also responded to the scene. Authorities worked well into Saturday afternoon to determine the cause of the fire, which remained under investigation at press time.
Property owner Eddie Cordell told The Record that the old house had been in his family since the 1950s. After his grandparents, he and his parents lived there in the 1960s before his uncle’s family moved in during the 1970s.
While the home place held happy memories for him, Cordell acknowledged that it had been a site for tragedy in recent years. Twenty years ago, a tenant shot and killed an intruder who broke in. Just two years ago, another tenant’s grown son committed suicide at the residence.
“I feel for those firefighters,” Cordell said. “This is just a structure; their lives are so much more important.”
In the short days since the fire, the local community as well as others around the region have rallied in support Lt. Hill. A candlelight vigil was held locally Saturday for the husband and father of two, who not only volunteers with WCFD but has also pursued a career in health care. Many have pledged to keep their porch lights on until Lt. Hill is fully recovered.
As Hill’s family holds vigil in Cincinnati, they have been joined by a rotation of firefighters from the Ohio Fire Chiefs Association, the Kentucky Fire Commission, the Ohio and Kentucky LAST teams, Supporting Heroes, Hamilton County Fire Chiefs, Clermont Chiefs and other Cincinnati and greater Cincinnati area fire stations.
A Facebook page called “Prayers for Pooh” had nearly 2,200 likes at press time. The site has posted this address for cards and letters:
Lt. Arlie Hill
University of Cincinnati Medical Center c/o Burn Unit
234 Goodman Street
Cincinnati, OH 45219.
UPDATE: The Whitley City Fire Department has set up an account for Hill's benefit at the Bank of McCreary County (P.O. Box 160, Whitley City, KY 42653). The agency also posted on its Facebook page that Hill is stable following his first surgery Tuesday.