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Sheffield Township fire chief IDs man who died in fire overnight


SHEFFIELD TWP. — The state fire marshal’s office has been called to investigate a house fire that claimed the life of a 35-year-old man Tuesday night.

Firefighters from three area departments raced to the scene of the two-story white frame house on state Route 254 about 6 p.m. after receiving reports of a fire, Sheffield Township Fire Chief Joe Bandagski said.

When they arrived, they found a man upstairs who had been overcome by smoke, who was removed from the house by firefighters, Bandagski said.

The victim, Thomas Johnson, 35, was transported to EMH Regional Medical Center in Elyria and pronounced dead, Lorain County Coroner Paul Matus said. Rescue crews tried to revive Johnson using CPR, but “it was hopeless,” according to Matus.

“It’s apparent death by smoke inhalation,” Matus said, but he would not give a formal cause of death until after examining the body today.

It was not immediately known whether Johnson suffered any burns. He was alone in the house at the time, but it was not clear whether he owned the home.

Johnson’s mother arrived soon after the fire broke out and left immediately for EMH, Bandagski said.

Tom Hoerrle, a board member of the Sheffield Village Historical Society, arrived before firefighters after he heard initial reports of the fire.

“I was just around the corner on Route 57. Flames were shooting out of the northwest bedroom opposite the school (Vincent Elementary School, adjacent to the house).”

Hoerrle and a second man who showed up entered the house together.

“The front door was standing wide open. It seemed strange, but I wouldn’t want to speculate on anything. We just walked in. There were lights on downstairs. We could see up the stairs and could see the bedroom glow (from the fire). We didn’t venture upstairs. It was too dangerous. The smoke was pretty intense at that time. It was coming out of the windows upstairs.”

A German shepherd was lying on a living room couch when the two men entered.

“The dog wouldn’t move. It was protective or afraid. I don’t think he was too pleased we were in his house. He was alive and growling but seemed OK.”

The eventual fate of the dog was not immediately known, but Sheffield Township firefighters were later seen tending to a large black and white cat inside an ambulance.

A firefighter was later seen cradling the cat in his arms.

It wasn’t known whether the cat had come from the house.

No one else appeared to be in the house, Hoerrle said, a fact that was later verified by Bandagski.

The two men left the home once firefighters arrived.

Firefighters and vehicles from Sheffield and Elyria Township also responded to the fire.

Contact Steve Fogarty at 329-7146 or or Kaitlin Bushinski at 329-7144 or

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