Written by Patty Decker Tuesday, 26 January 2010 19:25
Faulty wiring was blamed for the destruction of a house at 211 N. Prospect in Lehigh during the early morning hours Thursday. The owners, Rick and Gina Mounts, were grateful to have escaped with their lives.
Fortunately, the couple’s four children were spending the night with other family members.
Lehigh Fire Chief Brian Unrau said that within minutes of the smoke alarm going off, the entire main floor of the house was fully engulfed in flames.
“A neighbor called in the fire about 3:20 a.m.,” he said, “and minutes later flames were billowing out from the east end of the house.”
Firefighters were unable to enter the house, Unrau said, putting them in a defensive manner.
“We kept the fire contained by blasting it with water,” he said.
Even though the children were with relatives, the family pets were in the house sleeping with their owners when the fire struck.
Gina said she and her husband were able to get two of their three dogs out of the house, but attempts to go back for the third animal were impossible.
Frightened their dog, Bruiser, would be unable to escape the blaze, Gina said they screamed into the house to try and coax him out.
“We also threw rocks to break windows to help him get out,” she said.
At one point, the family thought Bruiser and one of their cats perished in the fire.
“God was watching over our place,” Gina said, because when all hope was lost that their animals would turn up, the other pets miraculously were found.
Another reason for her belief God’s oversight was Rick having had foot surgery six weeks earlier and still recovering, making it difficult for him to move quickly.
Rick had only returned home from Iraq in September and one reason their dog, Bruiser, meant so much to them was because he was born the day Rick left for Iraq.
“It was amazing,” Unrau said a day after the fire. “I could not believe or have guessed that anything could have survived.”
Gina said she thinks the dog escaped after they broke out a window that night, but later returned to the burnt-out shell of what was once their home.
“Bruiser went back into the house to wait for us to return,” she said.
As for the cat, she said she heard him crying from inside the crawl space.
Being an outside cat, Gina said, one of his favorite places to sleep at night was under the house and near the furnace area.
“The flames had to be right above the cat,” she said, “and not even the fur was singed.”
Although both animals will make full recoveries, Bruiser is convalescing at the vet from smoke inhalation affecting his eyes and lungs.
After insurance inspectors visited the house Friday to assess what happened, one was shocked a fire didn’t happen sooner.
According to Gina, the inspector found a “hot” wire inside the wall and near the furnace.
The wire had no insulation around it, he had said, and was an accident waiting to happen.
Gina said they were in the process of re-doing the house, and the electrical work was at the top of their list.
As for gratitude, Gina and her family are thankful to be alive and for all the help they received.
“(Lehigh firefighters) were wonderful,” she said. “They were there to save our lives and they did that in literally a matter of minutes before the house was gone.”
Unrau also expressed his gratitude to the Hillsboro Fire Department for their mutual aid.
As for the pets, Unrau said that when he got to the scene and heard a dog was still inside, he didn’t hold out much hope the animal would survive.
“Much to my surprise (and relief) he did,” Unrau said.
The family also thanked the American Red Cross office in Marion for getting them help right away.
“We are currently living in a motel, but are looking for a new place,” Gina said.
As for help from the public, Gina said they have what they need for now.
“We are covered by insurance,” Gina said, “but if someone wants to make a donation to the Red Cross (which helped us), then that donation would be there to help someone else who would need it later.”
Gina said she is also thankful her mother and father, Earline and George Hardey, who live in Marion, were close enough to offer their support too.