Wednesday, January 29th, 2014
By Shelley Grieshop
State workers help teens flee house fire
Firefighter injured battling blaze; home heavily damaged
  ST. MARYS - Two snowplow drivers are credited with helping two teenagers flee a house fire Tuesday morning.
Steve Kinstle and Javier Gallegos, Ohio Department of Transportation employees, were repairing mailboxes in the area north of St. Marys when they saw smoke rolling from the eaves of a farmhouse at 14801 state Route 116.
"We stopped ... we didn't know if anyone was in there," said Kinstle, who began working for ODOT about a month ago. "Javier called 911 and I went around to the front and started pounding on the door."
Kinstle said he thought he heard noises upstairs and continued knocking until one of the two teens - ages 18 and 14 - opened the door.
"They both had been upstairs. One was just getting out of the shower," Kinstle said.
The teens' father, Keith Perin, who served for 19 years as a Franklin Township firefighter, said his son stepped out of the shower and noticed the bathroom light was off. He smelled smoke and yelled to his brother to bring up a fire extinguisher, Perin told the newspaper this morning.
Before they could take action, the teens heard a noise and found Kinstle at the door. He instructed the young men, who were wearing shorts at the time, to quickly grab warmer clothes and get out, he told the newspaper. The boys exited safely before fire crews arrived.
Ted Hemleben, manager of the Auglaize County ODOT post, couldn't be prouder of his employees.
"I'm feeling pretty good about this," he said. "It's the ultimate thing they (ODOT workers) can do when they're out and about in the county."
St. Marys City Fire Department Capt. Wayne Sweigart said the outcome could have been much different.
"It could have been tragic," he added.
Perin said he's thankful the fire broke out during the day and not while the family was asleep.
"I know it could have been much worse," he said.
Damages to the two-story home are estimated at $65,000 for the structure and $50,000 for contents. The cause remains undetermined.
The family, including another child, is staying with relatives and receiving assistance from the American Red Cross. Perin said his children lost "pretty much everything" because they slept upstairs.
"But everybody's safe and that's the important thing," he added.
The city fire department received mutual aid from St. Marys Township and New Knoxville fire departments. Approximately 35 firefighters were on the scene, Sweigart said.
A St. Marys Township firefighter sustained an "electrical" injury and was taken by squad to nearby Joint Township District Memorial Hospital, where he was treated and then released, Sweigart said. The firefighter's name was not released.
Sweigart said his department was called to the home at 11:21 a.m. Upon arrival, the first floor of the two-story home was found to be "crystal clear" with no smoke or flames visible. However, a fire in the attic burned several holes through the roof, he said.
"It burnt probably about 50 percent of the roof off, maybe more," Sweigart said.
Fire crews cut a large hole through the ice of a nearby pond for water to extinguish the home.
"It's a good thing we had a pond right there," he said, adding it was quicker than relaying water from further away.
The temperature Tuesday hovered near zero but wasn't a big issue as long as water kept moving through the hoses, Sweigart said. Firefighters braved the frigid cold for about five hours before heading back to the station about 4:30 p.m. They were called back to the home at 6:30 a.m. today and remained there for several hours after the fire rekindled, he said.
Additional online stories for this date
Print edition only stories for this date
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