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Published: Thursday, 2/21/2008

Neighbors rouse sleeping family in burning home

BY MIKE SIGOV
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Tracy Ulrich, center left, hugs Jamie Irwin while Scott Shepard, left, and Xavier Cardenas examine what's left of the ranch-style house. Mr. Cardenas and Ms. Irwin alerted the residents to the blaze and are credited with saving their lives. Tracy Ulrich, center left, hugs Jamie Irwin while Scott Shepard, left, and Xavier Cardenas examine what's left of the ranch-style house. Mr. Cardenas and Ms. Irwin alerted the residents to the blaze and are credited with saving their lives.
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People living in a house in Perrysburg damaged extensively by fire Tuesday night credit their neighbors with saving their lives.

Tracy Ulrich, 42; her boyfriend, Scott Shepard, 39; and Ms. Ulrich's children, Anthony Rorigi, 13, and Nichole Rorigi, 14, were asleep in the single-story, ranch-style house at 1228 Whiteside Drive about 11:40 p.m. They were awakened by their neighbor kicking their front door.

"We would not be alive without this young man and his girlfriend. They saved our lives," Ms. Ulrich said.

Xavier Cardenas of 1229 Whiteside Drive said his girlfriend, Jamie Irwin of Perrysburg Township, was leaving his house when she saw the flames across the street. "She started yelling my name and yelling, 'The house [across the street] is on fire,'" Mr. Cardenas said.

Mr. Cardenas ran to the house and began pounding on the door. While he was trying to awaken the residents, Ms. Irwin called 911, he said.

No one responded, "so I started kicking the door, and finally the whole family came to the door, asking what's wrong," he said. "I told them the house was on fire. They were all pretty much still asleep."

As they fled, their dog Brutus ran out with them but then ran back inside, Mr. Cardenas said.

Fire crews found the house's attached garage engulfed in flames when they arrived. A short time later, they found Brutus in the house. The dog was visibly upset but otherwise unharmed, they said.

Damage was estimated at about $100,000. It included damage to the house, and the total loss of the garage, a sport utility vehicle, and a motorcycle, Ms. Ulrich said.

The cause of the fire is under investigation, firefighters said.

The family is staying with relatives in Oregon. They are using clothing and other items donated by people in their neighborhood, Ms. Ulrich said.

"This young man and his girlfriend really saved our lives," Ms. Ulrich said. "We would have never known. There was no smoke in the house and, by that time, the garage was up in flames."



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