Tuesday, October 16th, 2007
Man perishes in fire after saving cousin
By Shelley Grieshop
An 87-year-old man helped his elderly cousin out of their burning home but did not manage to escape himself in a fire Sunday night in Uniopolis.
Robert Frick, the owner of the home along West Oak Street that was nearly destroyed in the fiery blaze, was pronounced dead at the scene.
Frick's cousin, Myralyn Mayer, 78, was taken to St. Rita's Medical Center, Lima. Her condition was not available this morning.
Uniopolis Fire Chief Kelly Knutzen told The Daily Standard the fire was reported at 11:43 p.m. by an unknown man who used a cell phone to call 911.
Shane Cartmell, public information officer with the State Fire Marshal's Office, said investigators suspect but cannot confirm whether a space heater or faulty electrical wiring were to blame for the deadly fire and will subsequently rule it undetermined.
Knutzen said he does not suspect foul play. Damage to the two-bedroom, single-story home and its contents has been set at $90,000.
Knutzen said he could see a "glow" in the sky when he responded to the fire from his home about a mile and a half away.
"The fire was intense and there was heavy smoke," he said.
The home was old and small and burned quickly, he added. Dozens of firefighters from Uniopolis and St. Johns battled the flames and smoke through the early morning hours and finally left the scene about 4:30 a.m., he said.
Also, authorities are seeking the unknown man who reported the fire and stayed with Mayer until rescuers arrived.
"We don't believe he did anything wrong, we just want to talk to him to see what he saw," Knutzen said.
Knutzen said it would be beneficial to his department, the State Fire Marshal's Office and the Auglaize County Sheriff's Office - who are jointly investigating the fire - to have every piece of information that can be gathered from witnesses.
Knutzen said it also remains a mystery why Frick would help Mayer to the door and not exit himself, although he may have gone back to retrieve something or became disoriented in the smoke. Frick was not disabled and recently was seen driving a vehicle around town, Knutzen added.
Frick's exact cause of death is pending an autopsy at the Montgomery County Coroner's office.
Knutzen said the home was insured. Smoke alarms could not be found, he added.