Fire victim Dennis Faust, of 41-43 Water St., holds "Odie" his 5-year-old Jack Russell pit bull terrier. Faust credited Odie for saving his family's lives, alerting him to the fire by pulling the sheets off of him and barking. Faust's cat and a neighbor's dog were also noted as heroes for getting everyone's attention.
Thursday's early morning fire that claimed six properties, left two families homeless, and caused minor to severe damage to 19 properties on Water Street or surrounding structures in New Philadelphia, caused more than $250,000 in damages.
Families and property owners painfully looked over their destroyed homes and personal belongings Thursday afternoon after the fire had been extinguished.
The fire, which stretched from 33-41 Water Street, started sometime before 4 a.m.
One resident, Cherie Breisch, who lives only a few doors away, stated that she and her husband heard popping sounds around 3:10 a.m. and looked outside to see if their security lights were on. Since they didn't see anything, they went back to sleep. They were awakened again at around 3:35 a.m. to louder popping sounds. They looked outside to see flames and called 911. The flames, which reached more than 50 feet in the air, were so hot that they melted siding, fences, and Halloween decorations on properties located more than 150 feet away.
Since the vacant structures were already fully engulfed before anyone noticed, there was little firefighters could do to save it.
The fire appeared to start at three connected vacant properties at 33-37 Water St. About 20 years ago, 33 Water Street was once a thriving and well-known eatery and bakery called Joss's Restaurant. That property and its two adjacent properties, 35 and 37 Water St., were burned to the ground. That three-property structure eventually collapsed and had to be completely razed later in the day for safety concerns.
Both families displaced by the fire gave credit to their pets for saving them.
"The cat licked my face and the dog pulled the sheets off of me and my wife," said Dennis Faust, who lost his home at 41-43 Water St.
A New Philadelphia fire official said that most of the structures were long gone prior to the whistle call.
Neighbors and family members are already organizing band events and fundraisers to help the families that lost their homes in the fire.
Other residents living near the fire pointed out that fires have been common in this area, stating that four recent arson fires and one accidental fire have occurred on the same block in less than two years. In addition to last year's Oct. 17 fire that claimed Moe's Pub and surrounding homes, a large arson fire located across the street from Thursday's fire claimed five homes.
Thursday's fire is still under investigation.