Family loses home in rekindled fire

By Clinton Dick
Ottawa Herald – December 14, 2013
Submitted by Newz Group Clipping Service – December 23, 2013

ottawa fire 12232013

Jeff Hodgson and his family looked for things to salvage from what remains of their home, but the search didn’t last very long, he said.

“We go over to the house to go through stuff and think we are going to salvage something, and it just makes us sick and we leave,” Hodgson, Ottawa, said.

Hodgson, and his wife, Wendy, two daughters, Brandi and Bridgette, his 6-month-old grandson, Drew, and Brandi’s boyfriend, Mike Neighbors, lost most of their possessions and the home they were renting at 421 S. Maple St., Ottawa, Wednesday in a house fire. All six were living in the home before the blaze.

“As of right now, we lost everything,” Hodgson said on Thursday. “As far as I can tell, I believe the washer and dryer and my deep freezer are salvageable. I think that is about it.”

The American Red Cross was contacted shortly after fire about providing temporary housing for the family. Hodgson and his family were living in a motel in Ottawa for three days while searching for a place to go, he said.

“We just spoke with a lady about renting a duplex in Ottawa and we got it,” Hodgson, an employee of Houston-based U.S. Pipeline, said Thursday. “We just have to wait for the people to move their stuff out so we can go in. We don’t have anything to move.”

The house caught fire at about 2:33 p.m. Wednesday, ignited by a portable heater being used in the crawl space underneath the home to thaw out some frozen water lines, according to the report from the Ottawa Fire Department. The fire initially was put out by the fire department–with damages contained to the immediate area of the fire, Jeff Carner, Ottawa Fire Chief, said. Brandi, Bridgette and Drew were in the home when it first caught fire, Hodgson said. Everyone in the home at the time of the fire made it out safely and without injury, Carner said.

The fire rekindled at about 5:50 p.m. Wednesday, this time spreading to the first and second floors and to the attic of the home, venting itself through the roof, Carner said.

“Our assumption would be that there was a rekindle that occurred,” he said. “Because of the extent of the damage, it is difficult to say for sure, but a reasonable assumption would be when the fire started the first time, it was in the crawl space underneath the home and we assume it probably traveled horizontally under the home. After we cleared it the first time there was apparently enough heat in the crawl space that, over time, the heat built up and restarted the fire.”

“There are areas in the crawl space that would not be visible,” Carner said. “When we left, clearly there was no indication or reason to believe that there would be a rekindle, but, obviously, one occurred.”

Before the second fire, Hodgson had gotten a few of his possessions, including his guns and ammo, out of the house and was with his oldest daughter, Brittney, and her husband Jay, at their home, 513 S. Oak St., Ottawa, when he learned the house was burning again, he said.

“We got a call saying the house was back on fire,” Hodgson said. “I got there and flames were shooting through the roof.”

The second fire took its toll on the home and the contents within. Carner said the home now is unlivable, with an estimated damage of $90,000, including both the structure and contents.

“When we do estimates, it is just that,” he said. “Realistically speaking, I would say the structure is a total loss. Anything can be rebuilt, but, economically speaking, I doubt it would be cost effect to do so.”

The appraised value of the four-bedroom home is $64,000, according to the Franklin County Appraiser’s Office.

No one was home at the time of the second fire, Carner said.

Hodgson said the family did not have renter’s insurance, and the property owner, Bryan Ferguson, Ottawa, declined to comment.

The second fire was not considered suspicious in nature, Carner said.

“Because we were there earlier in the time frame, it would be a reasonable assumption that it was, in fact, a rekindle that occurred,” Carner said.

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