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The Daily



07-01-03: Mendon family escapes with minor injuries from burning home

Regular fire drills pay off

The Daily Standard

    MENDON - Mike and Nikki Geurkink, 9883 Mercer-Auglaize County Line Road, believe in the importance of using smoke detectors and teaching their sons what to do in the event of a fire.
    Those lessons paid off Saturday night as flames raced through the upstairs of their Center Township home. Thankfully, everyone escaped with nothing more than minor burns, singed hair and smoke inhalation.
    Nikki Geurkink was awakened shortly after 11:30 p.m. by a child's scream. Smoke detectors were issuing shrill warnings as she went to investigate.
   "I ran up the stairs screaming and clapping my hands in case the boys had become disoriented in the smoke," she told The Daily Standard. "I figured constant sound would draw them in my direction." Three-year-old Miles was already downstairs and she theorizes it was his scream that shattered the nighttime stillness. However, she feared for the safety of 10-year-old Macabe and 6-year-old Michael.
    "I found Macabe in the doorway of his room and pushed him toward the steps," Nikki Geurkink said. "I was just getting on my hands and knees to crawl into the bedroom after Michael when my husband grabbed me by the ankles. His words - 'everyone's out' were like sweet music."
    Michael, who had gone to a designated point outdoors, was screaming "Fire! Fire!" Macabe grabbed the youngest boy and headed toward the same spot.
    "We hold monthly fire drills to familiarize the boys with the proper steps to take in the event of fire," Nikki Geurkink said. "There have been numerous stories about kids dying in fires ... we didn't want our boys to be among them."
    Sometimes the drill entailed nothing more than pushing the button on the smoke alarm and asking the boys what to do next. Other sessions dealt with escaping through windows, belly crawling along hallways and finding alternate exits.
    With everyone safely outside, Nikki Geurkink ran next door to the home of her grandparents, Glenn and Ruth Figley, to call 911.
    Mendon Fire Department responded along with mutual aid from the Celina and St. Marys Township fire departments. A total of  20 firefighters and six trucks came to the scene.
    "Flames were rolling out of the upper story as we pulled up," Mendon firefighter Jim Painter said. "We hit the fire fast and hard, but the upstairs was pretty well gutted."
    Mendon Fire Chief Dennis Clay described the fire as accidental in nature. A lamp knocked over in the bedroom shared by the younger boys apparently sparked the blaze. He listed damage as $15,000 to the structure and $7,000 to the contents.
    The frame home, that has been in the Figley family for four generations, sustained some smoke and water damage throughout the downstairs area. Insurance should cover much of the loss.
    Nikki Geurkink and her sons were taken by ambulance to Community Hospital, where they were treated for minor burns and smoke inhalation before being released. A Mercer County Sheriff's deputy transported the father to the emergency room to be with the family.
    Firefighters remained on the scene until 3 a.m. making sure the blaze would not rekindle. They returned around 5 a.m. after the smoke detectors on the first   floors activated. Painter believes changing humidity levels inside triggered the alarm, as firefighters failed to locate any suspicious areas.
     The Geurkinks spent one day with a relative before a friend brought a pop-up camper to the scene. They will be moving to an area motel later today.
    "We lost some belongings but they can be replaced," Nikki Geurkink said this morning. "You can't begin to replace lives."
    The boys are coping with the loss of treasured belongings. Macabe lost the picture of Jesus he brought home from church camp earlier in the day, and Michael barely had time to admire the T-ball trophy he won Saturday in Mount Tabor League competition. Miles is becoming used to life without his favorite blanket. The trio were relieved to discover their father's birthday gift - a new flagpole kit - was undamaged.
    Clay admits the fire could have taken a tragic turn considering everyone was asleep when flames erupted.
    "Smoke detectors are well worth the money," he added. "This fire is a good example of how they can save lives."


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