Three Bainbridge police officers are being credited for their part in responding to a house fire Sunday and saving the resident’s life. At the house on Lookout Drive, the homeowner Craig Hairston, 45, was trapped in a second-floor bedroom as heavy smoke filled the house from a cooking fire. Police officers Steve Tuma, Brian Frew and Jamie Lukas were first to arrive on scene.
They carried a ladder from the garage and while Officer Tuma steadied the ladder, Officers Frew and Lukas helped Mr. Hairston down. He did not need medical assistance and no one else was in the house.
Bainbridge Fire Chief Lou Ann Metz said the fire was accidental and caused by grease being heated on the stove. “We were fortunate that a couple of police officers who were there prior to the fire department’s arrival assisted the resident out of the house. We appreciated their effort and thankful they were there to do that.”
The call came in at about 11:30 a.m. Sunday concerning a working house fire and a man trapped on the second floor with smoke billowing from the house. Mr. Hairston’s wife, who had just arrived home, made the 911 call and along with a neighbor helped the officers locate a tall ladder in the garage.
Bainbridge Police Chief Jon Bokovitz said he believes this is the first fire rescue involving his department. “The officers saw the urgency of what was going on and they took immediate action without regard for their own safety at that time and their only concern was to get the gentleman out of the house.”
Bainbridge Fire Department shift Lt. Mark Lewis was incident commander, while Bainbridge Assistant Chief William Lovell was on scene as safety officer, and Assistant Chief Wayne Burge did the investigation with the Geauga Fire Investigation Unit.
Lt. Lewis said after the rescue Mr. Hairston and his family were helped by family members.
The Bainbridge Fire Department was aided by 10 departments including Auburn and Russell fire departments as first in mutual aid. Reminderville Fire Department had one of its rescue squads on site. “They all made our lives a lot easier. We appreciate their help,” Lt. Lewis said. “There were 38 firefighters on the scene and everyone worked as a team.”
Black smoke was spewing out of the front door when firefighters arrived, Lt. Lewis said. Firefighters were able to get into the kitchen from the garage to put water on the fire. Water from fire hydrants on the road was used. The area is one of the few with such water available.
Assistant Chief Lovell said the open concept and high ceiling design of the house allowed the smoke to spread quickly upstairs preventing the resident from leaving the bedroom. Smoke was throughout the house, and less than 2 feet from the floor, he said.
“We had mutual aid and we got it knocked out relatively quickly,” Assistant Chief Lovell said of the fire. The structural integrity of the home is intact but the majority of the contents are lost from smoke and water damage.
He said the homeowner was upstairs and was alerted by a smoke detector to what was going on downstairs. He did not have his phone with him.
“It’s easy to get distracted and it is important not to leave any cooking unattended,” Assistant Chief Lovell said. He noted that many homes today have fans over the stove with a filter and the steam and any smoke gets blown outside. The house did have such a fan. “Fan vents are almost standard in new construction,” he said.
“You’d be amazed how many people leave items cooking on the stove unattended,” Chief Metz said. According to the U.S. fire Administration two thirds of fires in homes are caused by unattended cooking.
Citing statistics from the administration, Chief Metz said, for the years 2014 through 2016, there were 188,000 cooking fires in the United States, with 47 percent caused by grease. They resulted in 195 deaths, 3,800 injuries and $463 million in property losses.