Saturday, March 10, 2001

Firefighter's ordeal adds to emotional toll on unit

'I don't know which (tragedy) I'm trying to cope with'

By David Eck
Enquirer Contributor

        MIAMI TOWNSHIP — In 33 years of firefighting, Township Fire Chief Jim Hughes said he has never lived a week like this one.

        He was in Moscow, Ohio, Thursday afternoon, teaching a class for Cinergy employees, when his wife called to say his department was battling a serious house fire on Jordan Road. Over the phone, he heard that one of his firefighters was down.

[photo] Miami Township Fire Chief Jim Hughes outside the Jordan Road home where one of his crew was injured.
(Glenn Hartong photo)
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        It was the second blow in three days for the chief. He was still dealing with the emotions surrounding the deaths of two boys, killed Tuesday when their Miami Township mobile home went up in flames.

        “I don't know which (tragedy) I'm trying to cope with,” Chief Hughes said Friday, standing outside the remains of the home where veteran firefighter Bill Ellison was critically injured Thursday. “It was almost like I was in a hole, trying to get out. I can't get out. It's terrible.”

        Mr. Ellison remained in critical condition at University Hospital Friday. A firefighter/paramedic who works part time with Miami Township and full time with the Anderson Township Fire Department, he fell about 10 feet into the basement of the burning house.

        He suffered burns to more than 50 percent of his body, the most severe on his arms, hands and back.

        Fire officials in both Miami and Anderson townships say Mr. Ellison is a popular firefighter who loves the job. Mr. Ellison and his wife, Victoria, live in Union Township, Clermont County, and have two daughters, Marissa, 9, and Michaela, 5.

        “Everybody respects him,” Miami Township Assistant Chief Steve Ober said. “He is a guy that a lot of the younger guys go to.”

        Anderson fire officials praised Mr. Ellison for his skills as a firefighter/paramedic, and his demeanor.

        “Without discriminating in any way, he cares about everybody,” said Anderson Fire Chief Dan W. Esslinger. “He's a really caring person.”

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