Sunday, February 16, 2003

Firefighters search for disabled man after Delhi Twp. blaze

By Dan Klepal
The Cincinnati Enquirer

[photo] Delhi and Green township firefighters at the scene of the fire, where a disabled man is missing.
(Tony Jones photo)
| ZOOM |
DELHI TOWNSHIP - Firefighters were searching through a home for a young disabled man, missing and feared dead after a fire that sent his mother, a special education teacher, to University Hospital.

Outside the two-story brick home at 5474 Lariat Drive, Delhi Fire Chief Mike Edwards early Saturday morning said "The woman in the home was transported to UC. They have not been able to locate the son."

The home is owned by Sherry Burdick, who neighbors said was a special education teacher. Three Rivers Middle School in Cleves lists Sherry Burdick as a seventh and eighth grade special education teacher.

Her son Jake, neighbors said, has muscular dystrophy and uses a wheelchair. He is in his mid-twenties.

Neighbor Walter Lipps said he went to bed at about 11:45 p.m. after watching some of David Letterman and looked out the window to check on his cars. Everything was fine.

Fifteen minutes later, his daughter called on the phone and said she thought the neighbor's house was on fire. He looked out and it was.

When firefighters were called, flames were already visible and when they arrived on the scene, the building was fully engulfed. The fire was quickly knocked down, but the damage was severe.

Neighbors stood outside the a two-story brick and siding house with an attached garage on the end of a cul de sac. The siding of the house was torn away in the back bedroom and one whole side of the structure was blackened by intense flame.

Delhi Township Fire and Ambulance, Delhi Police, and Green Township Fire were working at the scene.

The fire investigation team arrived by 2: 25 a.m. No cause for the fire had yet been determined.

A Metro bus was at the scene to keep firefighters warm as they worked in the freezing rain and the Red Cross responded.

The family cat, the fire chief said, didn't make it out.

The chief was not sure who called 911. "I think the mother called," he said.

One neighbor, Randy Tirker, who lives about five houses down, said "They have lived in this neighborhood for years and years and years."

The Three Rivers Web site lists Burdick as having 28 years teaching experience, with 16 years at Three Rivers. Her B.S. from Miami University is in elementary education with a certification in learning disabilities and severe behavioral handicaps.

Neighbor Lipps described Jake: "He wasn't able to walk very well. He was a loveable guy, very friendly. He talked to everybody in the neighborhood. He had lots of friends and everybody knew him."

Fire Chief Edwards refused to used the past tense.

"He is unaccounted for," he said, as his men searched for Jake.


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