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

  • KayseInField
    IN THE FIELD—2004 Morenci graduate Kayse Onweller works in a test plot of wheat in Texas. She’s part of Bayer CropScience’s North American wheat breeding program based in Nebraska, where she completed post-graduate work in plant breeding and genetics.
  • Front.winner
    REFEREE Camden Miller raises the hand of Morenci Jr. Dawgs wrestler Ryder Ryan as his opponent leaves the mat in disappointment. Morenci’s youth wrestling program served as host for a tournament Saturday morning to raise money for the club. Additional photos are on the back page.
  • Front.bank.2
    SHERWOOD STATE Bank opened its Fayette office at a grand opening Friday morning, drawing a large crowd to view the renovated building. Above, Burt Blue talks to teller Cindy Funk, while his wife, Jackie, looks around the new office. The Blues missed the opening and took a quick tour on Tuesday. Few traces remain of the former grocery store and theater, however, part of the original brick wall still shows in the hallway leading to the back of the building. The drive-through window should be ready for customers later in the month.
  • Front.carry.casket
    CARRYING—Riley Terry (blue jacket) and Mason Vaughn lead the way, carrying an empty casket outside to the hearse waiting at the curb. Morenci juniors and seniors visited Eagle Funeral Home last week to learn about the role of a funeral director and to understand the process of arranging for a funeral.
  • Front.lift
    MORENCI student Dalton McCowan puts everything into a dead lift attempt Saturday morning during the Wyseguy Push/Pull event. Lifters helped raise more than $1,600 for the family of the late Devin Wyse, a former Morenci power-lifter who graduated last year. Commemorative T-shirts are still available by contacting teacher Dan Hoffman.
  • Front.make.three
    FROM THE LEFT, Landon Wilkins, Ryan White and Logan Blaker try out their artistic skills Saturday afternoon at the Morenci PTO’s first Date to Create event. More than 50 people showed up to create decorated planks of wood to hang from rope. The event served as a fund-raiser for miscellaneous PTO projects. Additional photos are on the back of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.F.office
    NEW OFFICES—Fayette village administrator Steve Blue speaks with tax administrator Genna Biddix at the new front desk of the village office. Village council members voted to use budgeted renovation funds targeted for the old office and instead buy the vacant bank building on the corner of Main and Fayette streets. The old office was sold to Sherwood State Bank. When everything is put into place in the spacious new village office, an open house will be scheduled. Council member David Wheeler donated all of his time needed to make changes in the bank interior to fit the Village’s needs.

Two lives lost in house fire 8.12.09

Written by David Green.

By DAVID GREEN

A house fire in Morenci early Aug. 5 resulted in an act of heroism by a neighbor, but left two people dead.

A blaze shortly before 4 a.m. last Wednesday destroyed the home at 404 Pearl St. owned by Jeremy and Christina Rohr. Jeremy, 36, and son Zachari, 12, died in the fire. Christina and her son, Austin, 9, escaped the blaze, while Ryan, nearly 2, was rescued by a neighbor.

Morenci police officer Frank Cordts was on patrol when he turned off Washington Avenue and headed west on Pearl St. He soon saw flames and when he approached the home, fire was visible in windows throughout the structure.

As he called in the report to the dispatcher in Adrian, Christina and Austin were coming out the front door of the house.

Fire chief Chad Schisler said the report of a house fully engulfed in flames was sent at 3:43 a.m. Seconds later the dispatcher added that people were trapped in the home.

Cordts went to the front door and, amid the smoke and flames, spotted Jeremy lying on the floor. He tried unsuccessfully to pull him out of the house and when neighbor Bobby Black arrived, the two together tried to remove Jeremy from the fire.

That’s when an accident led to a stroke of good luck.

Black slipped and fell, but once he was at floor level, he saw young Ryan on the floor below the smoke. Black crawled across Jeremy to grab the child, throw him over his shoulder and exit.

Black suffered burns on his legs, arms and back as burning debris dropped onto him.

Morenci police chief Larry Weeks said Ryan was reportedly not breathing when he was brought outside. Christina and then another neighbor attempted mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and the youngster eventually began breathing normally again.

Black wanted to go back into the home to look for the others, but there was too much smoke and fire.

“It was a valiant effort by Bobby and Frank to get them out,” Chief Weeks said. “If Bobby hadn’t been there, the baby would be dead.”

When the fire department arrived at 3:50, the fire had grown enough that the department’s interior crew was forced to cool the floor with water before they could crawl across the surface.

“A fire can double in size every minute,” Chief Schisler said about house fires, and flames spread rapidly in the Rohrs’ older wooden home.

Weeks is waiting to hear back from the state fire marshal for a report on the cause of the fire. The marshal visited the scene twice and took photographs to study burn patterns, Schisler said.

Neighbors reported hearing an explosion, but Weeks determined this sound was heard after the fire was well underway.

Schisler said the noise could have been caused by a cooking stove fuel canister exploding on the back porch or maybe when the electrical wiring to the house burned.

“The wires had already burned off the house when we arrived,” he said.

Christina accompanied the youngest child in an ambulance to Fulton County Health Center where he was treated for smoke inhalation.

Morenci was assisted by firefighters from Lyons and Fayette and by Wauseon’s rapid intervention team (RIT). A deputy with the Fulton County Sheriff’s Department also responded after hearing the radio traffic while patrolling in the northern portion of the county.

The fire department has been the subject of considerable criticism by Black and by anonymous commenters on the Adrian Daily Telegram website. Some residents are unhappy with the seven-minute response time and with the inability to save the two victims. After interviewing people involved, Chief Weeks says that criticism is completely unwarranted.

“I feel strongly that everyone did everything they could to save the victims,” he said.

Department members were already shaken by the loss of life, Schisler said, but the public criticism has made the situation much more difficult.

“My crew performed to the best of their ability, but we weren’t going to change the outcome,” he said. “It was a bad situation when we got there and we couldn’t make it any better.”

Schisler told city council members Monday that he spoke with Christina Rohr and her in-laws earlier in the day.

“They wanted to extend their appreciation to the fire department for everything they did,” he said.

He added that they were very upset with the rumors being spread about the department.

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