Quick-thinking cop stops Middle Ridge fire

By Jason Hawk - jhawk@aimmediamidwest.com

An award may be in order for an Amherst police officer who leaped into action to stop a backyard fire from consuming a Middle Ridge Road home.

Also heroic: An Uber driver by called police at 3:01 a.m. Saturday to report the flames, then banged on the door of the home near Woodhaven Drive but got no answer, according to a police report.

When police Sgt. Devin Small arrived, he found a tree, six-foot privacy fence, and a portion of the ground on fire, the report said. The heat had started to melt portions of the home’s vinyl siding.

He grabbed his fire extinguisher and went to work on the flames. When it ran out, he used a nearby hose to douse the rest as Amherst firefighters and LifeCare medics were arriving on the scene.

Small was then able to wake 59-year-old Mark Hiner, who said he had a small recreational fire earlier in the evening. He‘d gone to bed thinking it was completely out.

Fire chief Jim Wilhelm credited the Uber driver and Small with preventing a catastrophe.

“If no one had seen it, the house would have been up in flames,” he said.

Small recreational fires are allowed but can’t be left unattended, Wilhelm said.

The rules: Fire pits must be located a sensible distance from any structure — a good rule of thumb is 50 feet — and can measure two feet by two feet square. You must use clean, dry wood; no cardboard or paper.

Be sure to have a garden hose or five-gallon bucket of water nearby to drown the flames. And remember that if the smoke becomes offensive to any of the neighbors, the fire department will require it to be put out.

Just down the road, firefighters had battled another blaze around 4 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 2 — this time involving a car on fire.

A Ford van was destroyed on Middle Ridge near the Ohio Turnpike plaza. Those flames also melted the siding of a house.

“A lady came home, got out of the vehicle, parked it by the garage… when she came back, flames were blowing out of the bottom of the vehicle,” said Wilhelm. A passing driver stopped to call 911.

Jason Hawk can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @EditorHawk on Twitter.

By Jason Hawk