NORTH RIDGEVILLE — The family’s grief was evident for anyone walking by the home at 5324 Main Ave.
There, wrapped around a tree in the front lawn, stands a well-tended memorial to their son, James, who was found dead on a lawn in November.
So it was no surprise that on Thursday — as the family’s home was destroyed by fire — neighbors had to hold Karen Hartman back as she tried to enter the burning home to retrieve her son’s ashes. One of the neighbors actually tackled her to keep her out of the home.
Later, firefighters retrieved the partially burned urn and gave it to Hartman as she sat in her yard being consoled by friends and family.
Hartman’s son, James, was found dead on the lawn of a Mills Road home last year. His death was ruled accidental after Lorain County Coroner Dr. Stephen Evans found a combination of recreational drugs and alcohol in his system.
Assistant Fire Chief John Reese said Hartman’s home was destroyed by the fire, which started at 11:33 a.m. Firefighters arrived within three minutes of the call — they happened to be nearby flushing hydrants — but couldn’t save it.
“We had very little chance of putting the fire out,” he said.
Reese said investigators have yet to determine the cause of the fire, although a neighbor, who did not want to be named, said the couple had installed a new roof on the home Wednesday.
Firefighters were still on the scene at 4 p.m. Thursday picking through pieces of the home.
A neighbor’s girlfriend, Erika Pavlovich, reported initially seeing a fire near one of the windows. Her boyfriend, Mike Talley, kicked down the door to check if anyone was home.
Reese said the homeowners, Hartman and John Keane, weren’t home when the blaze started. The couple had several cats, who were not all located as of Thursday afternoon.
Reese said he is not sure where Hartman and Keane will be staying now, and they declined to comment.
Contact Chelsea Miller at 329-7123 or firstname.lastname@example.org.