A distraught Burr Oak area woman allegedly set fire to her own home in an apparent suicide attempt Thursday morning.
The result was a heavily damaged home at 1719 W 250S and some dead pets, but the woman herself escaped injury, according to the Noble County Sheriff's Department.
Members of seven fire departments were called to the home starting just before 8 a.m., and initial responders arrived to find heavy smoke coming from the single story wood frame residence. It took about forty-five minutes to bring the fire under control, but firefighters had to clear a large amount of smoldering insulation and wood from the attic area, and remained on the scene until after noon.
While firefighters were battling the blaze a female resident, who was not identified, reportedly told them she had set it. Sheriff's deputies were called in, and she reportedly told Deputy Shafter Baker that she was attempting to commit suicide. She apparently changed her mind after encountering severe heat and smoke and then fled, suffering only minor smoke inhalation.
However, a dog was trapped inside the home and died, and two cats were reported missing; it was uncertain if the cats were able to get out. Fish kept in an aquarium inside were also lost.
The woman, who said she lost her job earlier this year and had no insurance, allegedly poured gasoline onto bedding and furniture in the home and lit it. However, because the home was well sealed, the fire used up all the available oxygen and died down, giving firefighters a chance to attack the blaze before it completely leveled the building. There was extensive heat and smoke damage and flames spread into the attic, forcing firefighters to cut open the roof to vent smoke and reach the fire.
Police say the woman would be taken to a mental health facility, where she would be evaluated for treatment. Whether she will be charged isn't certain; a state fire marshal from the Indiana Department of Homeland Security came out to assist in an investigation.
Members of the Albion, Cromwell, Noble Township, Churubusco, Ligonier, Thorn Creek, and Kendallville fire departments assisted at the scene. Several firefighters were examined by Noble County EMS personnel as a precaution, but no injuries were reported. A number of other fire departments were moved up for standby, while the Noble County REMC assisted on the scene.
The open flames in the living portion of the home were knocked down fairly quickly, but the attic fire was difficult to access.
From above, firefighters "opened the roof", both to vent heat and smoke and to access the attic area.
From below, the probie got put to work "pulling ceiling" with a pike pole. This was his second fire; the first was was exactly two weeks ago, the same one where the ceiling fell on my head. You can tell he's a rookie by the smile on his face. WTF? Someone tell me why photobucket says the photo is fixed, but here it looks like he's laying down on the job?
A look at the damage. The ceiling supports were only burned on top; for awhile the fire in the attic burned much more fiercely than the original blaze in the downstairs, because it was able to get more oxygen. What you see on the floor is mostly ceiling and insulation; this kind of blown-in insulation is notorious for hiding little smoldering embers that would then rekindle after fire trucks leave -- which is why we end up pulling it all down.
Standard action shot. I liked the way the flash bounced off the drops, even as I tried to protect the camera from drowning. Why is the captain on the nozzle? He should have peons for that.
Another tanker shuttle -- the nearest hydrant was five or six miles away. If you look carefully, you can make out a blue helmet on the right -- another fire department's safety officer. What I didn't notice until later is the fellow on the left; as I was filming him, he was filming me, although I didn't end up on the morning news.
Finally, our newest method of crowd control. Just kidding -- we were removing weapons from a locked gun closet, so they could be resecured in a safe location. This is Bob Brownell, the guy I mentioned in my column who came to my daughter's aid when her tire went flat.