Calcutta man loses home, saves dogs from fire

CALCUTTA – A pair of blazes kept St. Clair and Liverpool Township firefighters busy during the late morning and early afternoon hours on Friday.

The first incident at about 11 a.m. was a house fire at a remote location overlooking Beaver Creek on Grimms Bridge Road. The homeowner, Dan Curnutte, was working in an unattached garage when the sound of an approaching vehicle prompted him to step out of the garage for a look. When he did, he saw smoke coming from his house.

According to Calcutta Volunteer Fire Department assistant chief Dave McCoy, Curnutte ran to the house and dashed inside twice to rescue two of his dogs. Neither of the animals was injured, nor was a third dog on an outdoor run. Curnutte made a third trip into the house to call 911, but was unable to safely make it to a telephone.

McCoy says Curnutte had to run to a neighbor’s home more than 200 yards away to get help.

The flames had made their way through the floor into the basement and through the ceiling into the attic by the time fire crews arrived, but remained relatively confined to that section of the house.

McCoy credited the steel roof, which stayed in one piece and did not allow extra air in to spread the attic fire. However, it also trapped the fire’s intense heat inside. “It kept it like a bake oven in there,” McCoy said. The great volume of water used on the attic actually caused the living room ceiling to collapse in an area of the home where there was no fire.

Still, McCoy defended his department’s job on extinguishing the blaze, particularly in light of the remote location of the house. “I feel that we made a good stop for the limited access that we had to it,” he said. McCoy gave credit to personnel from the Liverpool Township Fire Department, who assisted at the scene along with the Wellsville Volunteer Fire Department.

McCoy explained that Liverpool Township firefighters were able to lower a hose more than 20 feet down into Beaver Creek, which they connected to their pumper truck, supplying all the water that was needed at the scene.

Although a cause has not yet been determined, McCoy says the fire started near the laundry area where a clothes dryer had been running and is the likely culprit. Curnutte, who has homeowner’s insurance, was not injured and says he will stay with family for the time being.

Firefighters still were putting their equipment away at the Calcutta Fire Station when the bell sounded again shortly before 2:30 p.m. This time, the fire was much easier to spot, with a plume of smoke blowing over from the area behind Kmart on state Route 170. Four units from Liverpool Township responded to assist one from the Glenmoor station and two from the Calcutta station.

Dave Poriath had been burning a small pile of fallen tree branches and sticks in the backyard of his home on Lakeview Circle. “It happened when the wind came,” he said. “The sparks went all over the place.” Bits of burning newspaper that he had used as kindling were caught by the wind and blown into the nearby wooded area.

Poriath tried to battle the fire himself with a garden hose, but a steady breeze quickly caught multiple areas ablaze, and he was unable to follow all of them.

The ground of the wooded area was still covered with dry, dead leaves and branches from last autumn. For that reason, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources has an outdoor burn ban for 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., that remains in effect through the end of May and that McCoy urged area residents to observe. “You cannot beat mother nature,” he said.

None of the trees in the area caught fire, but roughly three-quarters of an acre were charred by the blaze. There were no injuries and no damage to any structures.