Fire claims another house in Lehigh

Fire destroyed a two-story home at 201 S. Prospect in Lehigh early Tuesday morning, Feb. 23. But the owners, Vance and Chelsea Hill, their three children and family pets escaped unharmed.

?I woke up coughing,? Vance Hill said, ?and the smoke in the bedroom was thick.?

Hill said he, Chelsea and their children, Dylan, 13, Hanna, 10, and Justin, 9, ran from the house to safety.

Chelsea Hill said that once they were all out of the house, she thought there might be enough time to grab some clean clothing near the door, but in that short moment, the flames made it impossible to even try.

?When the first Hillsboro (fire) truck arrived at the scene at 1:40 a.m., they saw the kitchen and whole first floor completely involved (in flames),? Hillsboro Fire Chief Ben Steketee said.

Minutes later, 24 firefighters from Lehigh, Hillsboro and Canton had descended on the scene. Because the fire had spread through much of the downstairs area, crews took a defensive approach, attacking the fire from the outside.

Two hours later, Steketee said the fire was extinguished.

The Hill family spent the days immediately following the fire in a motel.

Since then, the family is staying in Durham temporarily, until they can find a new home.

The family has received clothing donations, Chelsea Hill said Monday, thanks to the many kind people.

?Everyone has been totally wonderful,? she said.

Her family is also grateful to the firefighters, emergency medical personnel, sheriff?s office and Red Cross for their help during and after the ordeal.

?It?s so hard to know where to start in thanking people,? she said. ?We don?t even know everyone who helped at the fire or who has given us food, clothes or money.?

Vance Hill said he didn?t think anything was salvageable from the house.

?If so many people hadn?t come together to help us, I don?t know where we would be.?

Assisting Steketee in assessing the cause and origin of the fire was Jeff Davis of Topeka, an investigator with the Kansas State Fire Marshal?s office.

Steketee said they both were leaning toward the same conclusion that the cause was due to an electrical malfunction.

?Undetermined does not mean the fire was suspicious,? Steketee said.

Anyone who would like to help the Hill family can call Mike Moran at Hillsboro Elementary School or make donations at Mid-Kansas Credit Union, P.O. Box 608, Moundridge, KS 67107; Attention Vance and Chelsea Hill.

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