Neighbor credited with saving 7 in house fire

West Point firefighters Deanna Chamberlain and Zach Lawrence hose down the charred remains of the garage in Elkrun Township that was destroyed by fire Wednesday morning. The attached house was also heavily damaged. (Salem News photo by Tom Giambroni)

LISBON — An alert neighbor on his way to work is being credited with saving the lives of seven people who were asleep when a fire broke out in their Elkrun Township home on Wednesday morning.

“It it weren’t for the neighbor, Mark Smith, they might not have made it out,” said Lisbon Fire Chief Paul Gresh Jr.

Gresh said Smith ran to the home of Marion and Debbie Sias, 1189 Elkton Road, and began pounding on the door to wake them up. Inside sleeping were the Siases, their daughter, three grandchildren and one of their friends who had spent the night.

“They were sound asleep and had no idea what was going on,” Gresh said. “They had a smoke detector but it didn’t work.”

Smith managed to rouse them, and all seven escaped without injury, including Mr. Sias, who is on dialysis.

Gresh said the Siases’ son-in-law also lives at the one-story wood-frame residence but he had already left for work when Smith happened to see what he thought was a fire in their attached garage. Upon further inspection, Smith saw that the garage was indeed on fire and told his wife to call 911 while he began knocking on the door.

“He pounded so hard trying to get them up his hands were bloody,” Gresh said of Smith.

The fire department received the call at 6:45 a.m., and the first firefighters on the scene found the garage fully engulfed in flames that had spread to the house. The garage was destroyed, along with the pickup truck and car parked inside. Firefighters managed to save the home, but it sustained significant damage. Gresh said the home was insured and will likely be determined a total loss.

Meanwhile, the local chapter of the Red Cross was called to the scene to assist the Siases and help find them a place to stay and with Mr. Sias’ dialysis treatments.

Gresh said the household is obviously upset but they should also feel very fortunate.

“Like I told them, ‘You all got out.’ Five minutes later, and they may have been pulling bodies out,” he said.

The cause appears to be electrical, based on the location of the fire as first seen by Smith and other information, but Gresh said he will likely leave it undetermined and let the insurance company make the call. Two electric-powered scooters were plugged in at the time, and the family told Gresh the hoverboard also stored in the garage had been acting up, but it was not plugged in.

Assisting the Lisbon Fire Department were firefighters from West Point, Rogers, Negley and Hanover Township. Gresh estimated between 20 and 25 firefighters responded.