06-25-03: Blaze damages Rockford house
|By MARGIE WUEBKER
The Daily Standard
ROCKFORD - Area firefighters battled flames as well as hot, humid
weather Tuesday as they worked at the scene of a smoky house fire in Rockford.
Damage to the home and contents of Robert and Mary Eichler, 307 S. Main
St., is expected to top $150,000.
Rockford Fire Department, along with mutual aid from three other
departments, responded to scene at 11:45 a.m.
Neighbors quickly rallied to the aid of firefighters in full turnout
gear as thermometers hovered near the 90-degree mark. Blazing sun and high humidity only
added to the discomfort.
Village clerk-Treasurer Amy Lyons doled out ice water in plastic cups.
Tomi Barna and her 7-year-old son, Brant, arrived with a cooler of lemonade. The number of
coolers and picnic jugs on the sidewalk continued to multiply throughout the afternoon.
"This hot and humid weather is tough on everybody," Rockford
firefighter Aaron Sutter said wiping his brow. "We look out for each other to make
sure we stay hydrated."
He nodded toward a patch of nearby shade where two unidentified
firefighters - one from Rockford and one from Mendon - sank to the ground. Their
flushed faces glistened with beads of sweat. One unidentified firefighter described
conditions as "hotter than hell if that's possible."
Rockford Fire Chief Ralph Rhoades summoned mutual aid early on from the
Mendon, Celina and Ohio City fire departments.
"We didn't need the trucks, we needed manpower," he
explained. "The guys needed to get out of their gear from time to time in order to
The fire apparently began around the porch on the home's south side,
but the exact cause has yet to be determined. Flames quickly traveled up the exterior and
into the second story.
"It was a stubborn fire to fight," Rhoades explained.
"The flames got trapped between the dropped ceiling and the old one before moving
into the attic."
Flames periodically danced along the back roof, only to be beaten back
by blasts of water from fire hoses stretched along the street and across the yard. The
fire kept crews busy until 4:30 p.m., with Rhoades pointing out they used "an awful
lot" of water in the process.
Sutter had a close call shortly before 12:30 p.m., as he
attempted to saw and then knock a hole in the roof at the front of the home as a means of
ventilating the attic. The roof suddenly gave way and he found flames licking at his legs.
His first instinct was to dive for a nearby ladder - a feat that left onlookers gasping.
"It's amazing how fast you can move when fear strikes,"
Sutter told The Daily Standard later. "I grabbed that ladder and held on for dear
Mary Eichler and the couple's two young children reportedly left the
house shortly before flames were spotted. They were en route to Celina to have lunch with
their father, a Crown Equipment employee. Dee Dee, the family's 2-year-old chocolate
Labrador retriever, was the only occupant in the house at the time.
The frightened animal briefly held firefighters at bay as they
attempted to enter the burning house. She quickly settled down at the sight of an open
door, bolting for freedom and running along South Main Street. Donna Felver, a friend of
the Eichler family, quickly corralled the animal.
Robert Eichler said this morning the family had been able to salvage
clothing and some personal belongings from the first floor. He described the upstairs as
"pretty well gutted." The Eichlers, who are living with his parents for the time
being, have insurance that should cover most of the loss.
"We recovered things that are special to us," he said.
"The furniture, the electronic equipment and all the rest can be replaced."
SUBSCRIBE TO THE DAILY STANDARD
(419)586-2371, Fax: (419)586-6271
All content copyright 2003
The Standard Printing
P.O. Box 140, Celina, OH