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'I just want to start picking up the pieces': Man, dog start over after apartment fire

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    John Wooten holds his dog Kirby and looks at the damage as he stands inside the remains of his apartment off Mockingbrid Lane in Elyria.


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    John Wooten holds his dog Kirby as he stands inside the remains of his apartment off Mockingbrid Lane in Elyria.



ELYRIA — John Wooten walked through the charred remains of his Elyria home Monday just hours after he and his pet survived the blaze.

The once-white walls in his apartment at 221 Mockingbird Lane in Chestnut Acres were blackened with soot; personal items were melted. The lawn of the rented home was cluttered with damaged pieces of furniture, stacks of pink fiberglass insulation and broken glass. The metal gutter along the edge of the roof had curved from the intense heat, partially hanging near broken windows.

“I just want to start over,” Wooten, 42, said. “I just want to start picking up the pieces, I really do. This is really depressing.”

Wooten said he spent three minutes in the fire before jumping out the window. The escape left him with four stitches on his forearm from and first-degree burns on both hands.

He awoke overnight to the smell of smoke, he said, and ran to his kitchen to find his stovetop on fire. A spice rack had fallen onto the stove and was burning, too. He grabbed a blanket to put out the fire. Wooten then ran outside to throw out the rack then back inside to find Kirby, his miniature Doberman pinscher. By then, the entire living room was on fire and Kirby was nowhere in sight.

Choking on heavy smoke, Wooten turned and saw the fire by the front door. He said he thought he was trapped inside, but he found a way out through the bedroom window. To get out, Wooten dug with his hands through the Styrofoam and insulation he had placed in the window to block out traffic noise.

“I don’t even really (clearly) remember getting out of there,” Wooten said. “I just remember I was just wearing a pair of pants and my neighbor gave me a shirt.”

Wooten said he lost old family photos, books from the 1700s he collected and nearly all his personal belongings. His ex-wife also had belongings in the home she left with him that were lost in the fire.

He did not, however, lose Kirby.

Firefighters were called to the residence a little before 3 a.m., said Assistant Fire Chief Carl Mack. When they found Kirby, he was not breathing. First responders performed CPR on Wooten’s pet.

The fire did not damage any other units in the apartment, Mack said. The damage estimate was $7,000 for the apartment and $3,000 for its contents. The estimates may change after completion of the investigation, he said. The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

Wooten was hoping to return to another apartment in the complex but was told an apartment was available for an unspecified amount of renters’ insurance and $600 down payment, he said. The apartment turned out not to be available Monday.

Neither the landlord nor the leasing office could be reached for comment Monday.

Wooten said he recently lost a job at a motel. He and Kirby left Elyria late Monday evening to stay at the home of Wooten’s parents in East Liverpool. He said he would like to come back to town once he works out his financial situation. He opened a GoFundMe account with an initial goal of $1,000.

“I lost everything,” he said in the post. “Kirby and I are safe but I got out with the clothes on my back!”

Contact Bruce Walton at (440) 329-7123 or Follow him on Facebook @BWalton440 or Twitter @BruceWalton.

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