Thursday, November 11, 1999

Neighbor helps guide others out of fire

2-alarm blaze in Over-the-Rhine displaces 7 people

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        First came the screams, then the panic. Then there was a knock at the door.

        “If it hadn't been for him, I really don't think we would have gotten out of there. Things were just too confusing,” said Debbie Schoppe, 49, of her rescuer, 17-year-old Devanei Miller.

        Ms. Schoppe and her son, Trevor, 5, were among seven people displaced Wednesday night after a two-alarm blaze ravaged their four-story building in the 1500 block of Race Street in Over-the-Rhine. Eighteen residents lived in the eight-unit structure.

        Devanei, whose family lives on the third floor of the building, was already headed outside. He had just reached the front stoop when he heard people scream and saw flames shoot from the window of a third-floor apartment.

        “All I thought about was my family and I ran back upstairs and just started knocking on doors,” he said.

        The blaze started about 6:30 p.m. in the bedroom of a third-floor apartment. The fire's cause has not been determined but it was con tained to the third and fourth floors, said Assistant Fire Chief Tim McDonald. About 40 firefighters were called to the scene.

        One first-floor resident was hospitalized as a precautionary measure after suffering chest pains unrelated to the fire, the assistant chief said. No other injuries were reported.

        Damage was estimated at $35,000, and smoke detectors did work.

        Witnesses said at least one other man ran inside the burning building to help guide people to safety, while another directed traffic.

        Ralph Whitted, 28, of Over-the-Rhine, said he and his wife were across the street at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church when he heard a woman scream for help.

        Mr. Whitted said he ignored the flames shooting from the windows and ran to the second floor, where he was able to rescue a child.

        “I didn't think about anything,” he said. “I just wanted the people inside (the burning building) to get out.”


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