Quick Action During Fire Saves Homes of 10 Families

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MAPLE HEIGHTS -- Ten Maple Heights families have been displaced by a weekend fire.

But firefighters said quick action kept the fire from spreading and causing even more extensive damage.

The smell of smoke sent firefighters to a multi-unit apartment on Warrensville Center Road Saturday afternoon. That smell was enough for resident Thomas Leavester to know to get his wife, two children and others out of the building.

"Just smelled smoke," he said. "So, I just called the fire department and got everybody out of the building."

Charles Hirsch was taking a nap at the time of the fire. He was awoken the second time Leavester banged on his door.

"He said 'the roof's on fire' and I said 'oh my God. I can't believe this', and 'I have to get out of the building'," Hirsch said.

Maple Heights Fire Chief John Drsek said at first the fire was difficult to locate and to fight.

"The fire was hidden in void spaces," said Drsek. "So, that's always hard. We have to open up a bunch of ceilings to get to the fire."

Firefighters were able to contain the fire to one unit, but the smoke and water damage to the building is keeping 25 adults and children from returning to their apartments.

Apartment building owner Lily Horvat feels bad for the residents who are now left homeless.

"It was awful," Horvat said. "I mean, this is your home. This has all your possessions in it and your food, your medicine and your clothing, even your pets."

The Red Cross is assisting seven of the 10 families displaced by the fire by giving them food, hotel accommodations and clothing. The building is in the process of being aired out and cleaned, and repairs are being made so the residents can return to their homes as soon as possible.

"It is very uncomfortable for me, and it's something I hope that doesn't last too long," Hirsch said.

This should be just a temporary inconvenience for the residents.

Horvat said the good news is everyone got out OK.

"Even the pets," she said. "And I have to thank the fire department. They were amazing."

For more on the fire, click here.

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