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The Daily



06-25-03: Blaze damages Rockford house

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 cool down."
    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 life."
    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."


Phone: (419)586-2371,   Fax: (419)586-6271
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The Standard Printing Company
P.O. Box 140, Celina, OH 45822