By Margie Wuebker
Several area fire departments were among 10 that responded to a pair of house fires that left three Union City area families homeless Monday morning.
The blazes occurred less than three hours apart, according to Douglas I. Wright, Union City Fire and Rescue Chief of Emergency Services.
The initial fire call came at 8:11 a.m. sending Union City firefighters to the New Pittsburg home of Warren Snodgrass in northern Randolph County, Ind.
Twenty-one pieces of fire apparatus responded to the scene after Union City called for mutual aid from Ward Township, Salamonia, Ridgeville, Union City, Portland and Liberty Township departments, all in Indiana, as well as Fort Recovery, Burkettsville, Ansonia and Rossburg departments.
The home was engulfed by the time the first fire engine arrived on the scene. The family residing there quickly went to the home of a relative, according to public information officer Lt. Brian K. Hathaway. "At this point we have not determined how many adults and children were displaced by the fire," Hathaway added. "We also do not have a firm figure on the number of firefighters responding."
The second call -- this one at the home of William Cozart, 619 E. North St., Union City, -- came in at 10:40 a.m. as firefighters continued to battle the Snodgrass blaze.
"We sent everybody we could spare and called in additional mutual aid," Hathaway said. "We had one engine at the firehouse in the event of a third call."
Sixty firefighters and 15 pieces of fire apparatus arrived on the scene to discover the second house also engulfed in flames. The two families residing there -- four adults and five children -- escaped before the first fire truck raced up to the scene.
Assisting Union City firefighters and rescue personnel at the scene were Greenville, Hollansburg, Ansonia, Burketts- ville, Rossburg and New Madison as well as Indiana departments from Union City and Liberty Township. Ansonia Rescue Squad also responded.
Two firefighters -- one from Union City and the other from Ansonia -- were injured at the second fire. Both were transported to Wayne Hospital in Greenville, where they were treated then released. One unidentified firefighter complained of shortness of breath at the scene of the first blaze but was not transported to a hospital.
Hathaway said the first home as well as the second, owned by W.T. Lewis of Union City, are expected to be ruled complete losses.
The investigation is continuing but preliminary reports indicated a furnace malfunction sparked the first blaze and an electrical malfunction the second. Firefighters have not set a dollar loss as yet.
"We're thankful for the quick response of our mutual-aid companies in our time of need," Hathaway said. "Their teamwork and cooperation in such unusual circumstances of two working fires at the same time is to be applauded."