Student helps neighbor escape from fire

Sean Joseph

Yesterday around 1:30 a.m., a house fire at 1590 Artemis Drive attracted multiple emergency workers from Kent and Ravenna. After attempting to reach 911 and failing, Diane Frazee, homeowner, ran next door and called. She returned to her burning house with

Credit: Andrew popik

A student helped rescue a trapped neighbor, who had gone back inside his burning house early yesterday morning.

Gene Frazee, 59, of 1590 Artemis Drive, said he and his wife, Diane, were woken by their daughter after the couple’s house caught ablaze.

“I went downstairs and found the front porch on fire,” Frazee said. “I went back upstairs to get clothes, and I couldn’t get back down because the smoke was so bad.”

Ryan Pittman, sophomore computer science major, said he was woken up by his barking dog, someone pounding at the door and an orange blaze outside his window.

Pittman’s next door neighbor, Diane Frazee, banged at his door, yelling for someone to dial 911, he said.

“After I dialed, she said her husband was still in the house. I handed her the phone and ran out the door,” Pittman said.

Gene Frazee had stuck the upper half of his body out the window, gasping for fresh air and waiting for help, Pittman said.

Before any professional rescuers showed up, Frazee said he spotted a ladder outside a neighbor’s house that was long enough to reach the window and told Pitt-man to bring it over.

“I set the ladder up against the window and told Gene to get on it,” Pittman said. “He couldn’t get his legs out the window because the smoke was too hot to stick his head back inside the room.”

That meant Frazee had to exit the window head-first. Before he exited the window, the Kent Fire Department arrived.

The department received a call about the fire at 1:59 a.m., according to a press release issued yesterday afternoon. Both levels of the two-story house were heavily engulfed in flames.

The first officer to respond to the scene climbed up the ladder Pittman brought over, lifted Frazee upside down, carried him out the window and down to the ground, Pittman said.

The cause of the fire was still under investigation as of last night, the press release said. No one from the fire department would comment further.

Yet, from the beginning, Pittman said he suspected arson to be the cause of the fire. After the fire was put out someone came to the house and said he or she knew who did it, Pittman said.

Yesterday afternoon Frazee said he did not know what caused the blaze.

Frazee was taken to Robinson Memorial Hospital to be treated for smoke inhalation. He did not suffer any major burns or other injuries. Frazee expects to be released today.

The worst of his injuries were scrapes from being pulled out the window, Frazee said. He complained of sore eyes and lungs from the smoke.

“I was wondering if anyone was even going to come for me,” Frazee said. “It was so black up there you couldn’t see anything. I was either going to have jump or burn.”

He was the only one stuck in the house, Frazee said. His wife, daughter and two dogs were able to get out safely. He said he was stuck for about five to 10 minutes.

“I was just doing what anyone would do and helping out my neighbor,” Pittman said. “Everyone is just really lucky to be alive — the house is completely destroyed.”

The extent of the property damage was estimated at $225,000, according to the press release.

“My daughter went to the house today and said she thought it was completely destroyed,” Frazee said.

The blaze consumed the whole entire front of the house, Pittman said. It was so hot it melted headlights on a car 30 feet away, or about three-quarters the length of the May 4 Memorial behind Prentice Hall.

Fire departments from city of Ravenna, Ravenna Township, Mantua, Rootstown, Streetsboro and Stow provided Kent’s fire department with mutual aid.

Contact safety reporter Sean Joseph at [email protected].