Why We Search: Despite Owner’s Claim, Vacant Ohio Rental Home Was Occupied

Tragic news unfolds in Ohio three days after fire engulfs a vacant rental home.


On Saturday 19 March, Portsmouth Ohio firefighters responded to 267 Edendale Road for the house fire. Local reports stated that the house was fully involved upon arrival. Three days later, contrary to the homeowner’s claim, a body was found by investigators when they returned to search for the fire’s cause.

It is quite obvious that the victim of this fire was no longer viable by the time firefighters arrived. It is also obvious, as we have shared in many of these reports, that we are not advocating reckless abandon of safe practices for the bravado of saving a victim, any victim.

What we want to stress to you is that when the fire conditions allow it, a search should be initiated if the adequate resources allow it. It is not a slight or critique of the Portsmouth firefighters either, as logic would lead us to expect that given lesser fire conditions, a search may have been at the very least attempted.

The only concrete fact from this story is that no one knows – until a search is done, when possible – if the structure is occupied or vacant.

No one. Not even the homeowner.

“The owner of the rental property told firefighters on Saturday that the home was not occupied and there was no reason to believe that anyone was inside the home.”

“Firefighters were told the house was unoccupied and firefighters did not report hearing any smoke alarms. No smoke alarms have been found in the fire debris as of this afternoon,” Cartmill said.”
“Body Found at Burned Home 3 Days After Fire”, WSYX

“The house was not thoroughly searched after the fire because there was no reason to believe anyone was inside, [Cartmill] said.”
“Portsmouth firefighters make delayed discovery of body”, The Columbus Dispatch

“They say the homeowner told crews on the scene Saturday that the home was not occupied and there was reason to believe anyone was inside the home. That is why the Portsmouth Fire Department decided to wait until Tuesday to search the home and finish the investigation.”
“Body Found in Burned Out Home”, WSAZ



All comments must include your name or the name of your department. Either one, it makes no difference. If you dont, well we can do nothing for you.





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1 Comment

  • Ron Ayotte says:

    We must make every effort to insure that there is nobody trapped inside a burning structure. This does not mean that we as firefighters have to embark on a suicide mission, but if on arrival there appears to be a place of refuge , we must make an attempt to rescue those inside.

    “Survivability profiles” are a statistician’s wet dream.

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Comments
Bill Schnaekel
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Chief Ayotte, Thank you, not only for your kind words but your informative response. You had stated that it was a judgement call as to whether or not the initial arriving company officer conducted a quick primary search on marked vacant buildings. I'm curious, would that same officer face disciplinary actions if that were the…
2015-03-23 18:19:02
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2015-03-19 22:52:36
Ron Ayotte
If Not Us, Then Who?
Bill... your article is definitely something that should be brought up in every firehouse, whether it be in a formal class setting or an informal firehouse kitchen table discussion. I was my Department's liaison to and a member of the City's Code Enforcement Impact Team. Part of what we did was marking abandoned properties with…
2015-03-18 06:28:13
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2015-03-18 01:03:20
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When moving up through the chain of command, one better learn the politics of the department and community without playing politics.
2015-03-17 23:38:33
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