December 21, 2014

Elyria
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Fires strike in Lorain, Avon Lake

Families and pets were saved from a pair of fires over the weekend, one in Avon Lake and one in Lorain.

The family dog alerted a mother that her home at 163 Belmar Blvd. in Avon Lake was on fire Saturday morning, giving the woman time to wake her two children and escape, officials said.

Avon Lake police Sgt. Vicky Rightnour said the three-bedroom home is rented by Vanessa Koch who was asleep upstairs with her two children, ages 9 and 11, just before 8 a.m. when the family dog jumped on her bed and started barking.

“(Vanessa) followed the dog downstairs and smelled smoke,” Rightnour said. “She saw flames in the sun room at the back of the house between the wall and the couch. She ran back upstairs, grabbed her children and left the house.”

A faulty electrical outlet is the suspected cause, said fire Lt. Angelo Tetorakis, although full details aren’t expected until next week. The damage estimate for now is $150,000.

The home’s out-of-state owner, Steven Stonehouse, couldn’t be reached for comment.

Firefighters from Avon Lake and Sheffield Lake had the fire under control by around 8:30 a.m., Tetorakis said, adding it took about another hour to extinguish all of the smaller fires inside the 1573-square foot home.

While half of the house suffered fire damage, the entire home has smoke and water damage.

Rightnour said Koch, her children and the dog were taken in by a neighbor.

On Friday night, good Samaritans walking by a house in Lorain saved the lives of more than 10 animals when they spotted smoke coming from the front porch at 1032 W. 10th St. just before 7 p.m., said Assistant Fire Chief Roy Cochran.

“A passerby noticed the fire, and he and a neighbor tried to extinguish it with a garden hose,” Cochran said. “They tried to kick in the door but they couldn’t get inside so one of them called 911.”

Firefighters said one of the good Samaritans was Antonio Ortiz but officials didn’t have any additional information on them.

Eight dogs, two rabbits and an unknown number of cats were rescued from the home by firefighters, Cochran said. The cause of the fire is believed to be a space heater on the porch being used to keep several of the dogs warm. None of the animals was hurt, Cochran said.

No one was home when the fire started, but the animals’ owner, Grace Torrez, showed up a bit later and with help from animal control and the humane society, found temporary care for her animals.  Cochran said it’s unclear whether Torrez owns the home or rents it.

It took 16 firefighters nearly 25 minutes to get the fire under control.  Approximately $8,000 in damage was done when the space heater overloaded an extension cord plugged into it, Cochran said.

People need to be careful when using space heaters now that colder weather is moving in.

“Avoid using space heaters and kerosene heaters with multiple extension cords,” Cochran said. “Don’t put clothing or papers or any combustibles too close to them. Small children, dogs and cats can push them around or knock them over. Using too long of an extension cord isn’t good and neither is using one with too light a gauge to handle the heater. That causes the wires to burn and then it catches the floor and other nearby items on fire.”

Cochran said a little common sense and a little safety awareness can help prevent house fires started by space heaters.

Contact Alicia Castelli at 329-7155 or acastelli@chroniclet.com.