The Weekly Newspaper serving the citizens of Morenci, Mich., Fayette, Ohio, and surrounding areas.

  • Snow.2
    FIRST SNOW—Heavy, wet flakes piled deep on tree branches—and windshields—as the area received its first significant snowfall of the season. “Usually it begins with a dusting or two,” said George Isobar, Morenci’s observer for the National Weather Service, “but this time it came with a vengeance.” By the end of the day Saturday, a little over four inches of snow was on the ground. Now comes the thaw with temperatures in the 40s and 50s for three days.
  • Front.sculpt
    SKEWERS, gumdrops, and marshmallows are all that’s needed to create interesting shapes and designs for Layla McDowell Saturday at Stair District Library’s “Sculptamania!” Open House. The program featuring design games and materials is one part of a larger project funded by a $7,500 Curiosity Creates grant from Disney and the American Library Association. Additional photos are on page 7.
    Morenci marching band members took to the field Friday night dressed for Halloween during the Bulldog’s first playoff game. Morenci fans had a bit of a scare until the fourth quarter when the Bulldogs scored 30 points to leave Lenawee Christian School behind. Whiteford visits Morenci this Friday for the district championship game. From the left is Clayton Borton, Morgan Merillat and James O’Brien.
    DNA PUZZLE—Mitchell Storrs and Wyatt Mohr tackle a puzzle representing the structure of DNA. There’s only one correct way for all the pieces to fit. It’s one of the new materials that can be used in both biology and chemistry classes, said teacher Loretta Cox.
  • Front.tar.wide
    A TRAFFIC control worker stands in the middle of Morenci’s Main Street Tuesday morning, waiting for the next flow of vehicles to be let through from the west. The dusty gravel surface was sealed with a layer of tar, leaving only the application of paint for new striping. The project was completed in conjunction with county road commission work west of Morenci.
  • Front.pull
    JUNIORS Jazmin Smith and Trevor Corkle struggle against a team from the sophomore class Friday during the annual tug of war at the Homecoming Games pep rally. Even the seniors struggled against the sophomores who won the competition. At the main course of the day, the Bulldog football team struggled against Whiteford in a homecoming loss.
    YOUNG soccer players surived a chilly morning Saturday in Morenci’s PTO league. From the left is Emma Cordts, Wayne Corser, Carter and Levi Seitz, Briella York and Drew Joughin. Two more weeks of soccer remain for this season.
  • Front.ropes
    BOWEN BAUMGARTNER of Morenci makes his way across a rope bridge constructed by the Tecumseh Boy Scout troop Sunday at Lake Hudson Recreation Area. The bridge was one of many challenges, displays and games set up for the annual Youth Jamboree by the Michigan DNR. Additional photos on are the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.homecoming Court
    One of four senior candidates will be crowned the fall homecoming queen during half-time of this week’s Morenci-Whiteford football game. In the back row (left to right) is exchange student Kinga Vidor (her escort will be Caylob Alcock), seniors Alli VanBrandt (escorted by Sam Cool), Larissa Elliott (escorted by Clayton Borton), Samantha Wright (escorted by JJ Elarton) and Justis McCowan (escorted by Austin Gilson), and exchange student Rebecca Rosenberger (escorted by Garrett Smith). Front row freshman court member Allie Kaiser (escorted by Anthony Thomas), sophomore Marlee Blaker (escorted by Nate Elarton) and junior Cheyenne Stone (escorted by Dominick Sell).
  • Front.park.lights
    GETTING READY—Jerad Gleckler pounds nails to secure a string of holiday lights on the side of the Wakefield Park concession stand while other members of the Volunteer Club and others hold them in place. The volunteers showed up Sunday afternoon to string lights at the park. The decorating project will continue this Sunday. Denise Walsh is in charge of the effort this year.
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Saving Micah: We got him out of the hole, now let's get back to work

Written by David Green.


There wasn't much time for thinking, said Morenci Fire Department member R.J. Robinson after he helped rescue another firefighter in a burning house. There was only time to react.

fire storyThat sounds good to assistant chief Brad Lonis. It lets him know his department members are well versed in rescue techniques. In other words, all the hard work paid off.

"We push and we push and if they don't do it right, we do it again," Lonis said.

Three of his department members got it right at a house fire Feb. 10 on Medina Road. When Micah Borton fell through the floor of the burning house into the basement, his colleagues Robinson, Cory Holt and Jon Erskin quickly pulled him to safety.

"I put a lot of thought into what happened and how they handled themselves," Lonis said, "especially after watching the video."

Robinson has a video camera mounted on his helmet which proves to be a great tool for critiquing actions taken inside a structure.

"I had to watch it four or five times," Lonis said. "They did not panic. I think they're to be commended for what they did."

Lonis said that flames were visible from every opening on the front side of the house when the squad arrived. 

The four firefighters were running a hose from the back of the house toward the front where the fire was the most intense. The smoke was thick and Robinson, at the back, couldn't see Borton at the front. Borton's job was to "sound the floor"—smack it with the butt of an axe to make sure it was safe.

"During training, we're hammered about communication," Robinson said. "We're constantly keeping track of the whereabouts of the others."

He knew Erskin was in front of him and that Holt was the next one on the hose and that Borton was in the front. He asked about Borton and Holt replied, "He's right in front of me."

And then he wasn't.

"It's quite the feeling to see someone standing there and then suddenly they're gone," Holt said.

It was a surprise for Borton, too.

“One minute there was a floor,” he said, “and all of a sudden it fell apart.”

He stepped on a weak area and tumbled about eight feet to the basement floor, taking out heating ducts on his way down. 

Eight feet might not sound like much, Holt said, but remember that Borton was wearing about 40 pounds of gear plus an air bottle, and falling into a chamber of smoke and flames.

It wasn’t only the three rescuers who acted fast, Lonis said. Borton immediately triggered the personal alert safety system (PASS button) on his chest to sound a tone for the others to hear. Survival skills are every bit as important as rescue skills, Lonis said, and Borton responded just as he should. 

Robinson clearly remembers how Erskin turned and calmly stated, "Micah fell through a hole." Not a trace of panic in that voice.

The trio’s first action was to feed the hose down into the basement for Borton to use to quell flames, if needed. Then they went to work on the rescue.

"All the stuff we got in training just kicked in," Holt said. "I laid down on the floor and Jon grabbed ahold of me."

Borton leaped up off the floor and slipped out of Holt's grasp on the first attempt. The second time they connected and he was pulled out of the hole.

"It makes you think back to why they're pushing us so hard in training," Holt said, "and you're hoping it never happens."

"It did," Robinson said, "and we went to work."

Lonis was unaware of the situation. He was consulting with the Hudson department chief when the four emerged from the house. At first he was a little upset and wondered why they were back out so soon. They advised against sending anyone back into the center of the structure because the floor was weak.

"How do you know?" they were asked.

"Because Micah just fell through."

"They got him out, they got their bearings, they changed their air bottles and they went back to work," Lonis said. "From the time Micah fell into the hole until they had him out was about a minute and 20 seconds."

RIT training

All three of the rescuers credit the department's heavy emphasis on rapid intervention team (RIT) training. Twenty-three of the department's 29 members are involved in the program—a higher percentage than many area departments.

RIT teams are called to monitor the safety of other department's firefighters during structure fires, and to provide a quick response when someone needs to be helped out of a bad situation. When Morenci's RIT team is called to assist Wauseon, for example, team members will frequently circle the burning building, becoming aware of all windows and doors, watching for changes in the development of the fire, looking for trouble areas, setting up a ladder near a window for quick rescue, etc.

RIT training is scheduled once a month in addition to regular training, or as Lonis puts it, one extra night away from the family. Lonis praised department member Steve Olmstead who oversees the RIT training program.

"A lot of the credit for the rescue goes to Brad and Chad [Schisler]," Holt said. "They're pushing us to do it."

Lonis figures this is the first time that the squad's RIT training has been put to use on an actual fire scene. He's seen the potential for problems in the past, but nothing ever happened until now.

Borton, on the receiving end of the rescue, also appreciates the hours of training and he’s glad to know department members are following proper procedures. 

“It gives you a lot of confidence to know your crew is there,” he said.

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