By Margie Wuebker
YORKSHIRE -- A 21-year-old Darke County man died early Friday morning when fire swept through a rural home southeast of here.
The body of Kevin Joseph Schutz, 9719 Houschilt Road, was found shortly before 5:30 a.m. in the 1 1/2-story frame home owned by his parents, Mark and Linda (Heitkamp) Schutz.
The Darke County Sheriff's Office received a report of a house fire shortly after 2:49 a.m. Three additional callers also notified authorities in quick succession.
Osgood Fire Department was dispatched to the scene along with firefighters and trucks from Fort Loramie, Chickasaw, North Star and Burkettsville. Osgood Rescue Squad also responded.
"The house was fully engulfed in flames when we arrived on the scene," Osgood Assistant Fire Chief Rick Schulze told The Daily Standard. "There was not much we could do except knock down the flames." Firefighters could see flames lifting skyward as they approached the scene flanked by fields of tall corn, Schulze said.
An uncle arrived soon after the fire trucks, alerting personnel that his nephew, a 2003 Versailles High School graduate, might be inside. He also recognized the young man's car inside the garage.
"Other family members had gone camping, and the uncle could account for everybody else's whereabouts," Schulze said. "In a situation like that, you hope for the best but fear the worst."
Fellow firefighter Allen Bohman nodded in agreement. "We hoped he had gone out with a buddy or was spending the night at a friend's home."
Tankers ferried water from a pond near the intersection of state Route 705 and Darke-Shelby County Line Road in relay fashion. They dumped their loads in portable tanks before retracing the 4- to 5-mile route.
The blaze was brought under control in approximately 45 minutes. The body was found during a subsequent search of the home.
Damage appeared to be the heaviest on the west side of the home. However, Schulze indicated it may be difficult to pinpoint the origin given the extensive damage. The cause also remains undetermined.
The Darke County Sheriff's Office, the Ohio State Fire Marshal's Office and the Darke County Coroner's Office are conducting a joint investigation. Osgood firefighters remained on the scene providing assistance throughout the morning and into the afternoon. The last truck returned to quarters around 4 p.m.
The body was transported to the Montgomery County Coroner's Office, where an autopsy is expected to determine the cause and manner of death.
"The firemen want to get home to their loved ones after a call like this," Schulze said. "We're not used to handling a tragedy like this."
The last fire resulting in loss of life for the Osgood department occurred more than 35 years ago when a child perished in a Willowdell-area blaze. That was long before most of the men joined the department.
Schutz, who family members described in his obituary as a passionate Bengals fan, worked at Baumer Construction in Minster. He reportedly enjoyed spending time with friends and numerous cousins.
See obituary on page 3.