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8 Fires in 8 Hours

The fire described first in the story was at the home that belonged to my parents' landlord when I was growing up. It was one of those big, solid old farmhouses, which I could see across the fields (and up a slope) from the front door of our house when I was a kid. It's changed hands since, but I can still remember visiting there with my parents. The owner was a farmer named Maynard Bortner, and I can still remember him chugging over the fields around our house with that distinctive sounding green John Deere, a ball cap on his head and a big cigar clenched in his mouth.

Fire Sunday night destroyed a home about halfway between Albion and Rome City. Ten emergency agencies were involved in the incident, according to the Noble County Sheriff's Department.

The occupants of the residence, at 3521 E 600 N, escaped uninjured and called 911 from a neighbor's home when dark smoke started filling the building at about 9 p.m. The cause of the blaze is under investigation, but is believed to be accidental.

Orange Township firefighters arrived to find heavy smoke as flames spreading quickly through the two story wood frame structure, and soon began calling in help from other fire departments. About forty minutes into the fire interior crews were forced to evacuate when they discovered the fire was engulfing the basement beneath them, causing a collapse hazard. They were unable to save the family's belongings, and the home was completely gutted. A water stream from an Kendallville FD aerial ladder truck was used to reach flames deep within the building when floors collapsed, and the structure became so weak that firefighters couldn't approach

No firefighters were injured, although a Noble County EMS unit stood by as a precaution. The Red Cross was assisting family members, who lost almost everything in the incident.

Fire units, including water tankers and manpower, responded to the call from the Orange Township, Albion, Kendallville, Johnson Township, Corunna, and Noble Township fire departments; empty stations were manned by standby crews from the Avilla, Ligonier, and Topeka Fire Departments. Noble REMC linemen cut power to the burning home, while Noble County and Indiana Department of Transportation crews spread salt and sand over roads made slippery by a water tanker shuttle from Kendallville hydrants to the scene. In all, more than two dozen emergency units were involved.

The last unit left the scene at about 3:10 a.m. Monday, just over six hours after the initial call.

It was a busy time for Noble County fire departments, which were involved in eight calls within an eight hour period: five of them fires, and three medical assists. Some of Albion's volunteer firefighters barely made it home between the AFD's three calls, including a chimney fire that broke out just before 6 p.m.

Flames were shooting from the chimney when firefighters arrived at the two story wood frame home at 2066 N 150 E. However, the fire didn't spread into the surrounding home, was declared under control after about half an hour.

At 7:22 p.m. a more serious building fire was reported at 3455 S 200 E. Churubusco firefighters were dispatched to the blaze, arriving to find smoke coming from a residence. They called for a fire engine and water tanker from Albion, and members of the two departments brought the fire under control in about half an hour.

Disaster struck at 8:17 p.m., when a Churubusco fire truck, on its way back from the fire, itself burst into flames. Luckily LaOtto fire units had been placed on standby and quickly responded to the scene on Whitley CR 900E, not far from the Noble County Line. It took only a few minutes to finish extinguishing the blaze, which was accidental in origin and caused an undetermined amount of damage to the 7400 series International Harvester water tanker. The truck had to be towed in for repairs.

Only one fire department in Noble County had not been called to an incident that night. Ironically, that changed at 2:37 a.m., when Cromwell volunteer firefighters were brought up for standby at their station. They covered for the North Webster Fire Department, which fought a structure fire of its own in Kosciusko County, and remained on alert until 4:11 a.m.

No injuries were reported in any of the incidents.


( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 4th, 2010 11:51 am (UTC)
Off topic but do you get a lot of snowmobile accidents this time of year? Because we we sure do as well as people stuck on ice .

And a fair amount of fires, especially from people trying to heat homes with opening the oven, turning on the burners or a kerosene heater because the power has been shut off.
Jan. 6th, 2010 07:56 am (UTC)
We don't get many people stuck on our little lakes, but it does happen. Generally the danger is more from ice fishermen falling through -- two men got killed that way last year, and since then one of the local departments has acquired an air boat like the one mentioned in that article. The AFD recently got a grant ourselves, for ice rescue suits and an inflatable boat that's designed for the purpose.

We used to get a lot of snowmobile accidents, but since the late 80's the amount of snow cover around here has dropped (although it's rising again now). A lot of people replaced their snowmobiles with ATV's ... so now we're getting ATV accidents instead.

Our heating fires are usually from fireplaces and wood burning stoves, but we do get our share of space heater fires -- and carbon monoxide incidents.
Jan. 4th, 2010 01:58 pm (UTC)
Fires, even without loss of life, are always sad - and when it is a building associated with your childhood it is even sadder.
Jan. 6th, 2010 07:56 am (UTC)
Absolutely. The old barn on the home where I lived burned down in the 80's, in an arson fire -- broke my heart.
Jan. 4th, 2010 03:13 pm (UTC)
how sad
Jan. 6th, 2010 07:57 am (UTC)
There was another house fire the next day, too -- the hits just keep on coming.
Jan. 6th, 2010 02:35 pm (UTC)
Jan. 4th, 2010 03:37 pm (UTC)
That poor family. My aunt's house burned down and she said that seeing the wreckage afterward just inspired such a sense of loss for her and her family. I hope they can find some semblance of normalcy.
Jan. 6th, 2010 07:58 am (UTC)
I hope so, too. Anyone who says it's "just stuff" has never experienced such a loss.
( 9 comments — Leave a comment )

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