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Record heat hinders Hopewell fire battle

June 9, 2011
By Jill Gosche - Staff Writer ( , The Advertiser-Tribune

Personnel from 12 fire departments responded to a fire at Meadowview Apartments, 2976 W. US 224, Wednesday.

Two firefighters were taken to Mercy Tiffin Hospital because of heat-related illnesses, and Red Cross assisted displaced residents of the 11-unit complex in Hopewell Township.

Chief Keith Loreno of Fostoria Fire Department described damage to the apartment complex as significant. He did not have a damage estimate Wednesday.

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"It's obviously very extensive," he said.

Seneca County Sheriff Bill Eckelberry said a man who lived in unit 6 was barbecuing outside of the building. The man, whom Eckelberry declined to identify Wednesday, started the cooking fire with a torch and went inside to prepare other food. The box he had set the torch in ignited, Eckelberry said.

"Flames were coming up pretty high," he said.

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Brett Haskell, who was in one of the apartments when the fire started, holds his 3-year-old son, Caysen, as he watches smoke pour from the Meadowview Apartments Wednesday just outside Tiffin.

Eckelberry said the fire went into the common attic and spread.

"I'm sure with the wind today, that helped," he said.

Seneca County Sheriff's Office requested every department in the county to respond with manpower.

Representatives of American Electric Power, Bascom fire and EMS, Bettsville fire, Bloomville fire, Clinton fire, Fostoria fire, Green Springs fire, Kansas fire, McCutchenville fire, NBS fire, New Riegel EMS, Red Cross, Seneca County's Echo unit, Seneca County Sheriff's Office, Sycamore fire and EMS, Tiffin fire and EMS and Washington Township fire responded to the scene.

Firefighters rotated in and out. A heat advisory for Tiffin through National Weather Service was in effect until 9 p.m. Wednesday. The high for the day was 99 degrees.

Chief Harry Miller of Bascom Fire Department said two firefighters from his department were taken to Mercy Tiffin Hospital because of heat-related illnesses. One had heat exhaustion and the other had high blood sugar, he said.

The firefighters, whom he declined to identify, were treated and released, he said.

Loreno said none of the occupants of the building, which he understood previously was a roadside motel, were injured. Officials were not aware of any injuries to pets, although two cats were missing, he said.

A fox terrier named Buddy, belonging to residents Morgan Bollinger and Bill Bell, got out before the fire started and jumped into Bollinger's car through an open window. He was removed from the car and given water.

The owner of the building is listed as Toad King Properties LLC on Seneca County Auditor's Office website.

Kevin Dick, a partner in Toad King Properties, said he was thankful people and pets were OK Wednesday night.

"As far as we know, there was no loss of life of any kind," he said.

Dick also expressed appreciation for help provided by volunteers and fire, EMS and Red Cross personnel.

"It was amazing to see that," he said.

Loreno said Seneca County Sheriff's Office was investigating the fire.

At the scene, Eckelberry said it sounded like the fire was accidental. A representative from Ohio's Division of State Fire Marshal would be at the scene today, he said.

The fire was reported at 3:36 p.m., and US 224, which had been closed between SR 18 and CR 591, reopened at 8:55 p.m. Wednesday, a sheriff's office spokeswoman said.

Miller said firefighters were staying the night at the fire scene to watch for looting and reignition.



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