The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

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February 11, 2014

Faulty fridge blamed in $1M N. Kingsville house blaze

NORTH KINGSVILLE —  A faulty refrigerator apparently kindled a Sunday afternoon fire that heavily damaged a North Kingsville house on the Lake Erie shore, authorities said.

The fire caused an estimated $1 million damage to a brick home and its contents at 2829 Lake Road, North Kingsville Fire Chief Brian Lehtonen said Monday. Ashtabula County auditor records list the owner as Ashok and Nafisa Kondru, both doctors in the area.

North Kingsville firefighters were aided by personnel and equipment from Conneaut and Jefferson, along with Ashtabula, Kingsville, and Sheffield townships. Lehtonen said. Upwards of 30 firefighters teamed to battle the blaze, he said.

“We really appreciate their help,” Lehtonen said.

Some fire crews spent as many as 11 hours at the scene, battling subfreezing temperatures and wind as well as fire and smoke, Lehtonen said. A woman who was the lone occupant at the time suffered a small burn to her forehead, but did not require transportation to a hospital, he said. A dog in the house also was unharmed.

No firefighters were injured, Lehtonen said.

Local fire investigators, along with the state fire marshal’s office, have concluded the fire began in a refrigerator in the garage of the house. “The motor must have seized up,” Lehtonen said.

The state fire marshal’s office was consulted because of the value of the house, the chief said. Auditor records show the house was built in 1990.

When firefighters arrived at the scene, the garage was filled with flames, Lehtonen said. Fire traveled west from the attached garage into the house. Firefighters kept flames contained to the dining room and kitchen, but smoke and water damage was evident throughout the structure, the chief said.

The garage was leveled and a new vehicle parked in the garage was destroyed, Lehtonen said.

Weather made it difficult to fight the fire, Lehtonen said. “The first hydrant he grabbed was frozen,” he said, requiring hoses to be attached to another hydrant several hundred feet away.

The fire itself was especially stubborn, Lehtonen said. “It was one of those that wouldn’t go out,” he said.

North Kingsville firefighters were the last to clear the scene at 3 p.m., almost 12 hours after the initial call, Lehtonen said. Despite the significant damage, the house probably could be repaired, he said.

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