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A two-alarm fire displaced about 30 people from their apartments and caused an estimated $200,000 damage in North Toledo yesterday afternoon.
"I literally screamed 'Oh my God!' right there at the corner," Dan Drake, a resident of North Ridge Place Apartments, said of the moment he spotted the fire as he drove home to the complex at 1000 West State Line Road, at the corner of Lewis Avenue.
The fire burned through the roof of the western part of the building in the complex of three connected structures.
The 12 apartments - 10 of which were occupied - in that three-story building appeared to be destroyed. Those on the northeast side of the building should have some salvageable items, Toledo Fire Department Battalion Chief Tony Gregory said.
The fire, which does not appear to be arson, started in the bushes and mulch outside the building, fire investigator Andre Tiggs said.
Several people noticed it and filled pots and pans with water and grabbed a fire extinguisher. But when they got outside, a balcony had caught fire and the flames quickly spread to the next balcony, he said.
By the time firefighters responded to the call they received at 3:45 p.m., flames were through the roof and out the windows of all three floors, Chief Gregory said.
Police and other volunteers helped everyone in the apartment escape, he said.
A firewall built in the complex and the efforts of about 60 firefighters from eight Toledo stations prevented the fire from spreading to the next building. But several apartments in that building were damaged by smoke and water.
Heavy winds fanned the flames at the building owned by Ted Peacock, of Lambertville, Chief Gregory said.
Last night the Greater Toledo Area Chapter of the American Red Cross assisted six families with food and clothing, but all of those displaced by the fire found housing.
"It was just shock and awe and amazement at how bad it is," Mr. Drake, a 19-year-old clerk, said as he sat on the grass by the curb, his back turned to the damaged structure, as he waited for friends to arrive.
Further down the sidewalk, Jack Thiessen was watching firefighters work in his second-floor apartment.
A former magazine editor, Mr. Thiessen, 83, had been writing a novel. His work was backed up in case of a computer crash. But all the discs, as well as the computer itself, were in the apartment.
It was the same story with the photos on his digital camera, which were backed up three different ways. Now all that he has left of months of creative work is likely to be an early version of his novel and other projects that are in his Florida residence where he spends much of the year.
Early in the afternoon, Mr. Thiessen and his wife signed papers to buy a mobile home across the street from the apartment. "An hour later we get burned out," he said, adding that he will now have far fewer belongings to move.
The couple was able to grab their cat and put it in a pet carrier before they left the burning building. But once outside, the animal somehow escaped from the carrier and remained missing hours later.
The cat's name?
"You'd never believe this: Smoky," Mr. Thiessen said.
Contact Jane Schmucker at:
or 419-724-6050.24.14675 120.1573