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Amherst fire devastates family without insurance

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    Fire damage to the garage at the corner house on Harris Road and the neighboring home on Cornell Avenue in Amherst.

    BRUCE BISHOP / CHRONICLE

  • Amherst-fire-spreads

    Fire damage to the garage at the corner house on Harris Road and the neighboring home on Cornell Avenue in Amherst.

    BRUCE BISHOP / CHRONICLE

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AMHERST — Peggie Pentito’s rental home received the most damage of the three surrounding houses affected by a fire in a detached garage Sunday night.

“If you walk around to the other side, you can see all the way through it,” she said. “And the ceilings are all caved in,” she said.

Her home and two others caught fire after a garage at 190 Harris Road became engulfed. The two others only received siding and window damage. Amherst firefighters were dispatched about 8 p.m. for the garage fire that began to show signs of spreading to nearby houses, according to the Amherst Fire Chief Jim Wilhelm.

Amherst called in mutual aid from fire departments in South Amherst, Sheffield Township, Elyria Township and Vermilion. As the blaze intensified, Pentito said she and her children smelled something burning while sitting in the living room and left the home immediately.

Some of the only things unscathed were some of her daughter’s clothes, some shoes and a hat that belonged to her father who recently passed away.

About 4 a.m. Monday, Amherst Fire returned after another fire flared up at Pentito’s home, Wilhelm said, adding to the damage from Sunday night.

Pentito blamed the lack of water pressure for the immense damage.

Wilhelm said the lack of water pressure was because of the small water main along Harris Road. Firefighters had to hook up to the larger water main on Lincoln Street to get enough water. However, Wilhelm said the water pressure wasn’t to blame for the damage level.

“I don’t think it would’ve been a factor,’’ he said.

Had the call came in sooner, that might have made a difference, he said.

“Had we gotten the call 10 minutes earlier, we could’ve stopped it from burning any of the houses,” he said.

Another factor was that the home was built about 100 years ago with an architectural flaw, Wilhelm said. He said it was a “balloon house” where there is empty space between the walls and the exterior of the house. When the building caught fire, the space acted like a chimney and gave the fire a path to every level of the house.

The cost of the damage and cause of the fire haven’t been determined, Wilhelm said.

Moving forward, Pentito has no idea how to pay for the damage or where she and her family will live. She thought that they had renter’s insurance, but found out it may have lapsed. The Ford Ohio Assembly Plant, where she works, and the American Red Cross extended support for them. A friend from Chase Bank also moved to help the families affected, organizing donations. Any donation through Chase Bank can be made at any branch with a check, debit card or bank transfer, but not cash. When donating, reference the “Frederick Family Recovery Trust” or “the family from the Amherst fire,” and the money will be sent to the account for the family.

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


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