Wednesday, December 30, 2009


Elyria – Attempts to rescue 58 year old Frank Sabol were unsuccessful Wednesday morning but certainly not for a lack of trying according to witnesses.

Theresa Smith of Elyria was on her way to the Mall to do some shopping when she drove past 443 West River Road North and spotted the smoke coming from the house. “I saw that two men had also stopped and were running toward the house, so I pulled in the driveway to see if there was anything that I could do.”

Smith said that the two men were trying to gain entry through a side door that they had opened but the smoke and heat were too intense. “We both tried to go inside face first, and I know that is wrong to do – you teach your kids to get down low when there’s a fire – so I went down to my knees and tried to get into the house that way. I could hear him as I was yelling and he was yelling too – he was still alive.”

Smith said that she thought she could see his head through the smoke and believed that he was crawling towards the door. “Every time we would yell something to him he would respond back with like an “ok” or something, we couldn’t really make out what he was saying. Then there was a point where he just stopped saying anything – I think he was just too old and the smoke was just too much for him.”

The two men with Smith began breaking out windows with their shoes – Smith said it was then that the flames began shooting out the windows. “We were getting ready to make another attempt but that’s when the Fire Department showed up and made us get back.”

Smith said that although all three knew it was dangerous, they also knew it was something that had to be done. “We knew someone was in there, we could hear him. There was no way that we would just do nothing, we just couldn’t do that – not when it’s someone’s life.”

When Firefighters arrived they were told that the man was trapped inside of the burning home. Captain Joe Pronesti of the Elyria Fire Department said that the first Engine Company on scene entered the home to attempt a rescue. “We immediately attempted a rescue but I was getting conflicting reports as to where the victim was located in the house. I got two reports from people and we thought he might be at the front of the house and that would have given us a good shot at getting him out because all of the fire was in the back.”

Pronesti said that the fire and smoke were very intense on the Firefighters attempting the rescue. “The crew that went in did a great job – in fact they took so much heat that it damaged their turn out gear and SCBA’s to a point where it’s unusable. They were very lucky today but the equipment worked the way it was supposed to and the guys were able to get out safe.”

Low manpower hampered the rescue attempt Pronesti said, “We didn’t have enough manpower pulling up so I had to call for mutual aid. Because of the construction of the house the fire spread quickly so I couldn’t really commit anybody. We attempted a rescue but had to back out and basically had to wait for reinforcements to continue fighting the fire and to search for the victim.”

Pronesti spoke about the Good Samaritans who attempted to rescue the victim before Firefighters. “We run into this all the time where people want to help and that’s great – the problem is people don’t know fire behavior and what air and oxygen do to a fire and when you start indiscriminately breaking out windows sometimes the fire will grow. I’m certainly not saying what they did was wrong in trying to help – in fact earlier this year we had people helping at a house fire on Brandston Ave and when Firefighters got on scene there they were able to perform a successful rescue.”

Mutual Aid assistance was provided by Elyria Township, Sheffield Village Avon and Lorain at the scene. Carlisle Township Fire Department covered the city and responded on a chimney fire on Calann Drive. That ended up being a minor situation that Carlisle handled.

Pronesti praised the work from his own Firefighters and from the Mutual Aid Companies as well. “These guys did a great job today – especially in the conditions they were faced with in there. I also received help from Chief’s Jeff Young and Frank Root. Chief Young took command at the rear of the house and Chief Root was my Safety Officer. Having them on scene was invaluable and their help is always greatly appreciated. In today’s modern firefighting world, that is the way things should work and it did.”

Today’s fire was also the first large scale incident where Elyria Fire relied on Lorain County 9-1-1 as their Communications Center and Pronesti said that system worked the way it was supposed to as well. “We’ve obviously had a lot of small incidents with 9-1-1 since they took over the dispatching for our department back in October but this is the first big incident and they were great. I only had to ask for things once and it was done and there was a lot going on at this scene. They were perfect, they did an excellent job.”

A demolition team was called to the scene after it was determined that the structure was too unsound and Pronesti believed it was better to just bring it down. “Rather than having the guys going in there and getting beat up we’re going to just bring it down and then hit the hot spots.”

Two Firefighters received minor injuries to their hands while battling the blaze.

The call for the fire came in at 11:30 a.m. and it was called under control at 1:16 p.m. Ten Firefighters were on duty at the time of the call. Stations 1 & 3 responded.

Today’s fire was the third fatal fire in Elyria this year. According to Captain Pronesti, that is the highest in 10 years.


Check back tomorrow for more photos from the demolition


Anonymous Joe Pronesti said...

I would like to thank the departments and Chiefs that responded!!

You brothers and sisters from Elyria Twp., Avon, Sheffield Village and Lorain busted your butts and for that I and the EFD am truly thankful.

1:32 PM  

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