Monclova Township Fire Chief Kevin Bernhard does not expect a cause of the fire to be determined until sometime next week.
The Blade/Dave Zapotosky
People returning Friday morning to a Monclova Township condominium complex ravaged by fire Thursday night struggled to find holiday spirit, many having lost all their belongings in the township’s biggest blaze in at least a decade.
But some said they were thankful no one was seriously hurt in the fire at Brandywine condos on Byrnwyck West Road, near Salisbury Road. Two firefighters were treated at the scene for minor injuries, but returned to their duties.
“We were praying that [all the] people were accounted for,” Kathy Connelly of Toledo, a resident at the complex, said as she stood by.
“I saw people leaving and felt fairly certain that everyone was out, but I wasn’t certain.”
Sixty to 70 firefighters from Monclova Township, four neighboring departments, and the Ohio Air National Guard battled the fire first reported at 7:13 p.m. that destroyed or damaged 24 dwellings. Fire crews returned to the scene Friday night when a passer-by reported that the fire had reignited at about 7:45 p.m., but that fire caused minimal damage and the small flames were doused in about 90 minutes.
The first crews arriving at the scene found the roof ablaze. Flames consumed about two-thirds of the complex’s roof before firefighters gained control, and crews remained at the scene until late Friday morning to douse smoldering debris.
Investigators said Friday they believed the fire started on a second-floor balcony in the middle of the complex. Township Fire Chief Kevin Bernhard said he did not expect the cause to be determined before early next week, but “at this point, there is no reason to believe it is arson.”
The State Fire Marshal’s Office was working with the Monclova department to investigate the fire. Chief Bernhard said he had no firm dollar estimate of the damage, but predicted it would be in the hundreds of thousands.
Ms. Connelly, 70, a retired Lucas County assistant prosecutor, said she happened to be returning home from a family Thanksgiving dinner about the time the fire was reported.
“First, I saw the sky glare and I knew that it was our place, but I also didn’t want to believe it," Ms. Connelly said.
She used her key to get into her wing of the building that wasn’t burning and banged on neighbors’ doors, screaming that there was a fire and to get out. In the meantime, other neighbors went to the burning main building, banging on the walls and on windows low enough to reach, she said.
“Then we just all stayed outside and watched the firefighters work while neighbors from around the area brought [drinking] water and leftovers from their Thanksgiving meals, mostly desserts,” Ms. Connelly said.
Several neighbors gathered residents to talk with sheriff’s deputies who were trying to get a head count to make sure no one was missing, she said.
Once she was fairly certain that everyone was accounted for, her next concern was her two cats that were left inside her residence. Ms. Connelly carried a crate and cat food, hopeful to find her cats unhurt once she was allowed back into the building, because her unit had suffered only some smoke and water damage.
Mark Sheline, 54, of Cleveland, who also was at the scene Friday, said he and his father, Robert Sheline, 85, a retired teacher who had lived at the complex for 34 years, were at a Thanksgiving dinner in Ottawa Lake, Mich., when a neighbor called his father to tell him of the fire.
“Then we all immediately came here and saw 15 fire trucks. We saw chaos. A third of the building was engulfed in flames,” the younger Mr. Sheline said. His father was not at the scene Friday.
“What I felt was just shock and disbelief. ... I was thankful that we were gone [when the fire occurred], that it didn’t happen in the middle of the night, and that everyone was safe."
Contact Mike Sigov at: firstname.lastname@example.org, or 419-724-6089.