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Published: Friday, 9/10/2010

Fire destroys home of Perrysburg judge

Crews fight a blaze in the home of Perrysburg Municipal Court Judge S. Dwight Osterud and his wife. Their cat died in the fire. Crews fight a blaze in the home of Perrysburg Municipal Court Judge S. Dwight Osterud and his wife. Their cat died in the fire.

A Perrysburg judge and his wife lost their home in the town's historic district Thursday when an early morning fire raced through the wooden structure.

Fire Chief Jeff Klein said the homeowners, Perrysburg Municipal Court Judge S. Dwight Osterud and his wife, Judith Reitzel, escaped unhurt from 566 East Front Street near Hickory Street after reporting the fire at 6 a.m.

"It's unbelievable," Ms. Reitzel said.

She said the couple's cat growled and alerted them to smoke in the house after the fire apparently started in a grill on an exterior wooden deck. Chief Klein said embers from the grill, which was used the previous night, fell beneath the deck and eventually ignited.

When the couple dashed out of the house, Ms. Reitzel said, she thought the cat had followed but later realized it was still in the burning home. Firefighters later found the cat's body inside, she said.

Firefighters used foam rather than water to douse the flames because it is more effective in fighting fire in a house with wood construction, the fire chief said.

The home was valued by the Wood County Auditor's Office at $178,500, but fire officials put the total damage to the structure and contents at $250,000.

Chief Klein said the flames had extended through the walls to the attic, rendering the house a total loss, but it was up to the insurance company to decide whether to tear it down.

Ms. Reitzel said that the house, which was built in 1840, does not have an official historic designation because it originally had been located at the site of Kazmaier's 5 Star Market and was moved in 1960 to East Front Street.

Neighbors, nevertheless, were saddened by the home's destruction.

"It's tragic to lose [such] a house," said Laurie Avery.

Stephen Cross echoed that sentiment: "That's what Perrysburg prides itself on - its historic nature. So having a home destroyed is a significant loss to the neighborhood."

The fire chief said because the home was built 170 years ago, there were no fire stops in the walls, which allowed smoke and fire to spread to the attic. Additionally, the home recently had been renovated and had many hidden voids, which made battling a blaze more difficult because firefighters can be surprised when flames flare up in those spaces.

Perrysburg Township and Maumee crews assisted.

The street was closed to traffic all morning and reopened in early afternoon after crews left the scene.

Contact Mike Sigov at:


or 419-726-6089.

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