FREDERICKTOWN — Rosa Wengerd said she was tending to her 5-month-old son on the front porch of her Ridge Road home when she noticed smoke and heard noises coming from the far side of the house. Realizing the home she shares with her son and husband, Melvin, was on fire, she ran for help.
“I just grabbed my son and ran for the neighbors,” she said. “They called the fire department.”
Melvin was in the woods in back of the house.
“I was yelling for my husband, and yelling until the neighbors heard me,” she said.
A half mile away, Melvin’s mother, Sarah Wengerd, started toward her son and daughter-in-law’s home after hearing about the fire.
“My first thought was, ‘Are they OK?’” Sarah said.
She was one of several family members and neighbors among Ridge Road’s Amish community who quickly arrived to help the family save what belongings they could.
Much of the family’s furniture was pulled out by the men, who tied handkerchiefs over their faces to reduce the amount of smoke they breathed.
The women gathered nearby to talk with Rosa, and keep the children back from the house.
Firefighters worked to contain the fire for about an hour. According to Fredericktown Fire Chief Scott Mast, a gasoline motor from a pump the family used to pump water was placed too close to the cement block structure.
“It appears to have ignited the siding,” Mast said.
First to arrive at the scene, 6670 Ridge Road, Mast said there was some initial confusion when the fire was dispatched, because the house is only about a year old and may not yet be in the 9-1-1 dispatch mapping system.
But firefighters quickly found the home, and began a defensive attack.
“The entire attic was fully involved, and the tin on the roof was sagging in,” Mast said.
Because the family was safely out of the burning home, Mast decided to keep firefighters outside during the initial attack.
“I was concerned about collapse because of the amount of damage to the rafters,” he said.
Mutual aid was requested from the Johnsville Volunteer Fire Department in Morrow County, which sent six firefighters, a tanker and a grass truck.
A Fredericktown grass truck drafted water from a pond near the intersection of Cooke and Ridge roads for the 20 firefighters on the scene.
“Once we knocked down the initial fire and established the structure was stable, we then made entry into the building to extinguish the fire on the inside,” Mast said.
He explained that once the firefighters deemed the situation safe enough, they allowed family members to remove furniture from the side of the house where the fire had been extinguished.
Firefighters put a blanket of firefighting foam on the building’s hot spots to ensure the fire would not smolder or reignite.
The unique construction of the house may have saved much of the Wengerds’ property from being destroyed. Mast said the cement block building is basically a walk-out basement for a future structure which could be built in stages on top of the existing building.
“The floor for the second floor is already there, and the tin in the ceiling really kept the heat above the ceiling and protected the contents,” Mast said.
“We began building about a year ago,” Rosa said of the construction her husband has been doing on the home.
She and Melvin both said after the fire the tin in the construction may have spared some of the family’s furniture from the fire.
“There is a lot to be thankful for,” Sarah said as members of the community helped Rosa and Melvin gather the items that had remained safe from the fire.