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Published: Monday, 3/19/2012

Toledo fire crews report busy weekend


Fire crews looking for a small fire in North Toledo stumbled upon a different, much larger, house fire in the 700 block of Buffalo Street Monday morning.

The fire at a vacant house, 712 Buffalo, was reported by fire Engine 3 at about 7:30 a.m., said fire Lt. Matthew Hertzfeld.

It’s unclear what exactly caused the fire, but neighbors said the property has been vacant for years.

The fire on Buffalo was the seventh house fire between Friday night and Monday, Lieutenant Hertzfeld said.

From midnight on Friday through Monday morning, the Toledo Fire Department responded to more than 500 incidents: “We’re busier than what we’re used to,” Lieutenant Hertzfeld said. “We’re working to the max.”

The normal weekend call for service number is closer to 400 or 450. Last year, the department handled more than 54,000 calls for service.

“You know, the life of a firefighter, a lot of people don’t understand what it’s like,” Lieutenant Hertzfeld said. “They see us as one dimensional, all we do is fight fires. They don’t know we also do medical runs. ... So while we’re responding to fires, we’re also responding to diabetics, and shootings, and people struck by cars, and people who don’t feel good.”

The lieutenant said it’s difficult to say, at this point, whether any of the fires are related, but ongoing investigations will likely give authorities more clues. Some of the fires, he said, could be copycats.

The first fire to kick off the busy weekend was reported at about 12:16 a.m. Friday at 656 Thayer St. When crews arrived, they initially believed the home was vacant because the windows were boarded up — although they were boarded from the inside rather than the outside. During a perimeter check of the property, a back security light went on, indicating to crews that the house may be inhabited. Damage there was estimated at $10,000.

A few hours later, at 4:41 a.m. Friday, crews were called to 1973 N. Michigan St. which was fully involved when crews arrived. About $6,400 damage to the vacant property. Nearby homes and vehicles were damaged from exposure and heat, according to reports.

On Saturday, at 8:04 p.m. crews were dispatched to 1045 Oakwood Ave. in the central city for a vacant house fire. That fire remained under investigation, although Lieutenant Hertzfeld said an arson report was filed by Toledo police. Damage was estimated at $3,000.

There were four fires Monday morning — including the Buffalo Street fire — all within only a few hours of one another.

The first was reported at 1:41 a.m., a vacant house at 1907 Nelson Ave. Damage there was estimated at $15,000.

Just a little more than an hour later, at 2:55 a.m., a fire was reported at 1947 N. Superior St. Two people were inside the home when the first-floor bedroom fire started, but both occupants escaped without injury. Damage was estimated at $16,000.

At 3:45 a.m., crews were sent to a vacant house fire at 3601 Stickney Ave. in North Toledo. A damage estimate was not available Monday evening.

All the fires remained under investigation Monday.

The lieutenant said people who live near vacant houses should have fire escape plans, planning for at least two different ways out of a home.

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