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A fire that started in the utility room of a Wawaka home damaged the residence Thursday afternoon, but no one was injured.

The blaze was discovered in the home of Marjorie Kinnison at 7506 N Albion Street, at around 12:53 p.m. A resident who was home at the time reportedly discovered the fire in a utility room and tried to put it out with a fire extinguisher, but was unable to. Everyone evacuated safely as flames engulfed the utility room, at the rear of the one story wood frame home.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation, but it's believed to be of accidental origin.

Firefighters found flames spreading from the utility room into the kitchen and attic area, and outside onto the eaves of the home. By entering through the front door, they were able to push the flames from the unburned area, and the blaze was placed under control after less than forty minutes.

Flames impinged on a propane tank that was positioned outside by the utility room, and also threatened a nearby garage, but firefighters shut off the gas supply and cooled the tank down before it could explode. In addition, a thirty foot camper trailer was parked behind the house and endangered, but was moved away just as firefighters arrived.

Also, NIPSCO utility crews shut off electricity to the house. No injuries were reported.

Fire units remained on scene until about 3:30 p.m., while firefighters searched out and doused hot spots. Trucks responded from the Albion, Ligonier, and Orange Township Fire Departments, along with a Noble County EMS unit. Water tankers shuttled water to the scene from Fricks Farm Services nearby. The Johnson Township, Topeka, Cromwell, Avilla, and Noble Township Fire Departments were placed on standby as a precaution.

In one of my novels, I have a very Mary-Suish minor character named Rich. He only appears in a few scenes, but the running joke is that he's a volunteer firefighter who has a reputation for ceilings falling on his head. Well, you know how life imitates art ...

This is the utility add-on, at the back of the house. Just between you and me, the fire appears to have an electrical origin, somewhere in the utility room.
charred add on 2

The fire spread from there into the kitchen -- you can see the kitchen windows here -- and into the attic area above the kitchen. I was on the hoseline in the kitchen when I called for someone to pull the ceiling, because I'd seen fire spreading up the walls and figured it had to be in the attic area. It was, and the second hose crew got excited about putting water on it. Unfortunately, the water stream rebounded off the roof and onto a plaster ceiling loaded with blown in insulation, all of which gets heavy when wet. I was directly below that very same ceiling.
ladder work

Yeah, this ceiling. Where's the rest of it? On my head.
fallen ceiling

Taken from the basement. Just past Shawn Jacob is where I was kneeling when the ceiling became the floor; the light you can see beyond that is a window of the utility room.

Fire also spreads down. In this picture, which was taken from the top of the stairs looking down into the basement, you can make out some containers of various explosive/poisonous objects that most people would have in their homes. We hit the fire just as it was starting to extend downward -- basement fires are no fun.
spread to basement

Looks a little melty, huh? It was about 2/3 of the way up the wall, by the front door where we entered -- which is across the room from the kitchen. There was no fire in this room, although it was clearly getting hot enough to flash over. The runny look on the wall is from when our water stream turned to steam and collected on the soot. None of this could be seen when we first entered, but I could feel the heat through my protective hood.
melted wall

There's no hydrant nearby. These guys are draining a dump tank, which is carried on the side of a tanker. We drop the dump tank and empty the tanker's water into it, so the tanker can go back for another load while the pumper drafts from the dump tank.
Tanker shuttle

And finally: Me. I didn't think to get this picture (okay, this one I didn't take) until after they'd used an air line to blow the insulation off. That gear is supposed to be all black. The red thing is a flashlight, and on the left side of my chest is a very dirty portable radio. The red poking through at my neck is the sweatshirt I wore beneath my gear, and around my neck is the hood that protected my neck and ears. Without the hood I'd have gotten burned, this time around. The bulging pockets? Fire gloves, leather extrication gloves, a Leatherman all-purpose tool, 50 feet of self rescue rope, and wedges to prop doors open.
Dirty Mark


( 16 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 3rd, 2008 12:33 pm (UTC)
What would have been in the utility room? I'm assuming not the washer which looks like it's down in the basement? *confused*

Ouch for your head - hope it's recovered, although I would think your neck would be sore too.
Nov. 4th, 2008 04:58 am (UTC)
Well, the official cause hasn't been released, but ... *looks around, whispers* ... about the only thing in the utility room was the clothes drier.

Actually, my head never really hurt at all, even though there are some gouges in the blue paint of my helmet. that's what the helmet's there for! My back hurt, but that could have been almost as much from lugging around that doggone air tank -- but yes, I did have a neck ache the next day. And the day after that. When's my next chiropracter appointment, again?
Nov. 3rd, 2008 12:57 pm (UTC)
Ooh...OUCHIE!! Good thing you're wearing your helmet/hat? Glad nothing serious happened to you.
Nov. 4th, 2008 04:59 am (UTC)
Oh, yes -- our helmets are life savers, literally!
Nov. 3rd, 2008 12:59 pm (UTC)
Bloody hell mate, that house was a mess.

When you said a ceiling fell in on you, I thought you'd been doing some D.I.Y.

At least now, if you write a scene like that in a book or fic, you'll know your stuff!
Nov. 4th, 2008 05:08 am (UTC)
Believe it or not, that house was in much better shape than most that catch on fire around here. Because we're an all volunteer department and places like Wawaka are six miles from the nearest fire station, it's hard to get there in time to save any of the contents at all. By going in from the unburned side we kept the fire out of 80% of the house, although there'll still be lots of heat and smoke damage to deal with.

I actually do want to write novels about firefighting, so this is great on the job training! But the truth is, I've gotten hurt way more often in those do it yourself jobs you mentioned than I ever have on a fire call. :-)
Nov. 4th, 2008 08:37 am (UTC)
"But the truth is, I've gotten hurt way more often in those do it yourself jobs you mentioned than I ever have on a fire call. :-)"

I don't think you're safe to be let out, mate.
Nov. 7th, 2008 07:41 am (UTC)
Not with power tools, anyway!
(Deleted comment)
Nov. 4th, 2008 05:09 am (UTC)
We're careful, and well protected -- and Buddy Christ is watching over us, man!
Nov. 3rd, 2008 05:54 pm (UTC)
Just an everyday hero again. That looks scary - I hope the ceiling didn't cause you lasting pain. You do an amazing job, but your friends worry about you a bit...

Nov. 4th, 2008 05:15 am (UTC)
Nah, just a back and neck ache. Sadly, my bi-monthly chiropracter appointment was just a couple of hours before -- turns out it was wasted money. The best time to get your back cracked is just *after* a fire!

Worry about me? As I mentioned to Keith, I endanger myself more in home improvement projects than I do at fire scenes. Since I had some jobs around the house planned for that day, I may have actually prevented an injury! :-)
Nov. 4th, 2008 12:20 pm (UTC)
Meep! Oddly enough, as I sit eating lunch and writing this, there are two firefighters on TV talking about their collection of fire helmets!

Good job the modern ones are so good, we prefer your head in one piece and fully funcrional!
Nov. 7th, 2008 07:42 am (UTC)
the irony is that leather helmets -- which is what the original ones were made of -- have come back into style again! Turns out they're tougher than the space age materials that replaced them for awhile.

(The jury's out on whether my head is fully functional.)
Nov. 4th, 2008 10:42 pm (UTC)
Now that's scary - be careful! (I know, I know - it's not like you're deliberately walking under about-to-fall roofs and just waiting there for it to happen.) Glad to see you're ok.
Nov. 7th, 2008 07:43 am (UTC)
Well, it gives me stories to tell! :-)
( 16 comments — Leave a comment )

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