Tallmadge -- "In my 36-year career, I'm sure I've experienced periods like this, I just can't recall one," said Tallmadge Fire Chief Pat Gaffney, referring to the six fires his department battled in a four-day span.
"I'm proud of our personnel," said Gaffney. "They did a great job locating and extinguishing fires and protecting our citizens and each other."
Calling the job "challenging and exciting," Gaffney said he and his team can never forget they're making contact with residents on one of the worst days of their lives.
"We were lucky no person or firefighter sustained any serious injuries," said Gaffney, noting that those days are the good days.
Even so, two people lost their homes, replaceable and irreplaceable items were lost, and one company was put out of business.
"Some people had insurance, others didn't, but even insurance can't replace everything," he said.
The first fire occurred close to 1:30 p.m. Dec. 14 at an Outlook Drive residence. According to Gaffney, the resident was baking cookies and thought she turned the oven on, but accidently turned a surface unit on instead. Gaffney said a plastic cover sitting atop the surface unit ignited, resulting in a fire that damaged the kitchen. The fire department has no information on cost of damage.
Next, Tallmadge firefighters responded to a report of a large fire in the woods in the area of 1600 Northeast Ave. a little after 4 p.m.
According to Gaffney, police and fire units found a large four-bay storage building on North Munroe Road fully involved. No injuries were reported.
"This portion of North Munroe Road has no fire hydrants, so the water was shuttled in by Tallmadge, Munroe Falls, Brimfield and Mogadore Fire apparatus," Gaffney said.
With the location and weather conditions, Gaffney said Tallmadge Fire received assistance from Tallmadge and Munroe Falls Police, the Tallmadge Street Department and Phil's Towing.
The privately-owned out building contained a motor home, two Jeeps, off road vehicles and other miscellaneous equipment. He said the building and its contents, estimated at $400,000, were a total loss.
Gaffney said the state fire marshal and insurance investigators are in the process of examining the scene and are calling the fire "non suspicious" and possibly "electrical" in nature.
That evening, around 9:30 p.m., firefighters responded to another kitchen fire, this one on West Howe Road.
Gaffney said a pan of grease had caught fire and ignited the kitchen cabinets. The resident was able to extinguish the fire prior to firefighters' arrival.
Around 2:30 p.m., firefighters were called to a house fire on Brian Drive.
Gaffney said there was a heavy fire showing at the front window of a twinplex. Gaffney said an occupant had escaped prior to their arrival and reported no injury.
The apartment was deemed a total loss. The adjoining unit sustained smoke and some structural damage. Damage to both units and their contents was estimated at $168,000.
Tallmadge received mutual aid from the Munroe Falls Fire Department.
The fire is still under investigation.
A little after midnight Dec. 18, firefighters responded to a fire at a West Avenue business.
A Tallmadge Police unit on patrol observed a large amount of smoke coming from the Custom Auto Detailing and Car Wash on West Avenue.
According to Gaffney, fire units found the fire in the rear utility room. The fire was brought under control in 20 minutes, said Gaffney, noting the building had some structural damage, but the smoke and heat did extensive damage, estimated around $87,000, to the building's contents, which included three vehicles.
Gaffney said fire investigators suspect someone threw a load of laundry covered in combustibles and accelerants into the dryer and left the building with the dryer running unattended.
Gaffney said the business has closed.
The Akron Fire Department provided mutual aid.
Later that day, firefighters responded to a fire at 10:25 a.m. on Fenn Road. On arrival, Gaffney said fire units discovered heavy smoke coming from the back of the one-story wood frame home. Upon entry, firefighters found a working fire in the family room area of the house. Gaffney said the fire was extinguished and under control in 20 minutes.
The occupant, he said, had escaped prior to the fire department's arrival.
"He said he was sleeping in a back bedroom and was awakened by a smoke detector," Gaffney said.
Firefighters found the occupant attempting to extinguish the fire and as a result, he suffered some smoke inhalation. Gaffney said he was evaluated by EMS on scene, but he refused transport to a medical facility.
Gaffney said the preliminary investigation indicates bedding material and combustibles left too close to a wood burning stove were the cause of the blaze. The fire caused extensive damage to the house and its contents. The estimated dollar loss is $68,000.
The resident's two children were not home at the time of the fire.
Tallmadge firefighters received mutual aid from the Mogadore and Brimfield fire departments.
Gaffney said the primary cause of house fires, according to the National Fire Protection Agency, is from cooking.
"Kitchen fires are caused by individuals who are not paying as close attention as they should be when cooking," he noted. "Debris on the stove can catch fire easily. Grease is another common denominator when dealing with kitchen fires. A stove or oven that is not working properly can also lead to a fire. Mild fires happen often; however, the majority of fires occur when other tasks are being preformed while the individual is not concentrating on their cooking."
Gaffney advises residents to check their smoke detectors and make sure they have a fire extinguisher available.
Tallmadge Good Neighbors and the American Red Cross are assisting the families who lost their belongings and home. Anyone interested in helping out is asked to contact Tallmadge Good Neighbors at 330-733-1453.
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