August 30, 2014

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Dryer fire leaves Amherst family homeless

Firefighters spray the remains of a house on North Ridge Road in Amherst Township that was destroyed by a fire Tuesday. Fire investigators have pinpointed the blaze’s cause as a clothes dryer. (CT photo by Bruce Bishop)

Firefighters spray the remains of a house on North Ridge Road in Amherst Township that was destroyed by a fire Tuesday. Fire investigators have pinpointed the blaze’s cause as a clothes dryer. (CT photo by Bruce Bishop)

AMHERST TWP. — A dryer fire left a family of 11 homeless Tuesday morning.

Four of nine children were at the home at 48501 North Ridge Road in Amherst Township when the fire started, and everyone made it out unharmed. A cat named Sammy did not survive the blaze, but another cat and dog got out.

Tony Ellis, the father, said the dryer started smoking after he told his son Jake to put his shirt in it. Ellis said he thought he had succeeded in putting out the fire with a fire extinguisher, but smoke started coming from a wall.

Cathy Ellis said her husband yelled for everyone to get out of the house.

“I just thank God that all my kids got out,” she said.

Jake Ellis, 20, grabbed his 11-year-old sister Alyssa, who is paralyzed and cannot speak, and carried her out of the two-story home. Jake Ellis said he also managed to save his $400 leather jacket, similar to the one Michael Jackson wore in his “Beat It” video.

“I think the most important thing I grabbed out of that house is my sister,” he said.

Amherst Fire Chief Wayne Northheim described the damage to the house and contents as a total loss. A damage estimate was unavailable Tuesday night.

Northeim said investigators had narrowed the fire’s cause to the dryer, but it was still unclear exactly why it ignited. Northheim said dryer fires can be caused by lint buildup or malfunctions.

In order to prevent dryers from catching fire, he suggested making sure nothing is around the dryer and that it is well-grounded. Also, he recommended keeping the lint trap clean and well-maintained.

Fire crews were called at 8:15 a.m. Tuesday and were still working on hot spots at 11:30 a.m.

“We had to fight it from the outside,” Northheim said, because the house was too unstable to enter.

The family will be staying at a motel with help from the Red Cross, Tony Ellis said.

Brianna Ellis, 20, a sister, said she was staying with an uncle at the time of the fire.

“I’m just speechless,” she said. “Be grateful for what you have.”

Contact Kiera Manion-Fischer at 329-7123 or kfischer@chroniclet.com.