SIDNEY — The homeowners of the April 10 Old English Court fire thanked Sidney firefighters and police during a press conference Tuesday morning, April 16.
Homeowner and occupant Rebecca DeForde also said she felt a closer fire station to her home could make a difference during a fire.
The joint press conference held at Sidney Fire Station No. 1 with Sidney Police, Sidney Fire and the homeowners provided more details about the fire that occurred at 2021 Old English Court.
“I just can’t thank all of you enough for my father’s safety, and my dogs’. And you didn’t have to go collect my belongings (during the fire). I just feel like if there were a fire station closer; like four minutes makes so much more difference when there is a fire,” DeForde said through tears during the press conference. “I’m just grateful and I can’t thank you (enough).
DeForde’s elderly father, Galen Urick, and her two dogs were home at the time of the fire. Urick was unaware of the fire when Sidney Police officers arrived and rescued him and the dogs from the home that quickly began to fill with smoke. DeForde said it was two separate neighbors who saw smoke coming from the home’s roof and called 911.
Mayor Mike Barhorst opened the press conference by thanking and praising Sidney Police officers’ and firefighters’ good work.
“I think I speak for all of council when I say that we are grateful for what (Sidney’s first responders) do day in and day out. There are probably very few council meetings when we don’t pray for their safety everyday. Thank you for your hard work day in and day out,” Barhorst said before handing the meeting over to Sidney Fire Chief Bradley S. Jones.
Jones said the incident provided for a unique opportunity to highlight the work Sidney’s first responders do on a daily basis and show how important response times are. He began the meeting by playing Officer Andy Shappie’s body camera, who was one of the first police officers on scene of the fire.
“(The video) gives us a good timeline of the events as (the fire) progresses,” Jones said.
The footage begins showing Shappie and Sgt. Jeremy Lorenzo enter the home, quickly inform Urick about the fire, escort him out and then begin looking for the dogs in the home. Next, Shappie quickly rescues the caged great dane. He returns, along with Capt. Jerry Tangeman, to search several rooms for the boxer that was eventually found in the garage. Officer Valeria Leigeber was also on scene helping Urick. Lorenzo can be seen in the video collecting several of the family’s personal items, including family photos. Fire can be seen in the video dropping from the ceiling onto the kitchen floor and and begin to spread while officers moved throughout the home.
Finally Sidney Fire Department can be seen in the video arriving at the single-story, single-family residence about 6.5 minutes after Sidney Police. By this time, a well-involved attic fire is shooting from the burning roof of the house.
“We wanted to use this as an opportunity to show the extraordinary efforts that Sidney first responders do on a daily basis to our customers, or neighbors and our friends. And we also wanted to show how important response times are. Time matters, minutes, even seconds, could be the difference between life and death,” Jones said.
“Time matters. Specifically for brain death, emergency medical calls and for fire growth. Science proves, it shows that with an adequate supply of fuel and oxygen, a fire will double in size every minute,” he continued. “We can see the difference in this video. We can see the difference in the volume of fire and smoke for the house. If our initial crews could have potentially been on scene at the 3 minute mark, along with the police officers, things could have conservatively different.”
Lorenzo, Shappie, Leigeber and members of Sidney Fire’s “C” crew were also present at the meeting. Tangeman was unable to attend.
Lorenzo, who spoke on behalf of Sidney police, said he was so grateful no one was hurt during the incident.
“It’s unfortunate this tragedy happened. We are pretty fortunate that we were relatively close (to the home). As a supervisor, I am extremely proud of my shift for working as team as they did. They didn’t need to be told what to do; just do what they do everyday. We are not anybody special. Anybody in our shoes would have done the same exact same thing that we did,” Lorenzo said. “It’s a really helpless feeling when you are watching a house burn like that. We were inside and you could just hear the fire roaring in the attic. And we were fairly certain that the house was going to sustain major damage.”
DeForde said the home where she was caring for her father is probably a total loss. The cause of the fire is still under investigation by Sidney’s Department of Fire and Emergency Services.
“My father had no idea when police arrived about the fire. I am just so grateful neighbors made the call,” she told the Sidney Daily News.
When asked about his message, Jones said in closing, “The first responders in the city of Sidney provide excellent care everyday to our customers. This is a perfect example of the need for a third fire station on the north end of town. Time matters. Minutes matter. Seconds matter.”
He said information is available on the city’s website at www.sidneyoh.com about the 2019 income tax levy on the May primary election’s ballot. Half of levy funds to be collected will help pay for a third fire station; the other half will be for road repairs.
Reach the writer at 937-538-4823.