Bethany Suarez said she, her fiancé, her 8-year-old son and 11-year-old daughter had lived in the house for four years. The house and their belongings went up in flames after a fast-burning kitchen grease fire ignited about 7:30 p.m.
About 25 firefighters from the Berlin Township, Florence Township and Milan Township fire departments responded to the call. Ohio 113 was closed for several hours between Wright and Andress roads while crews worked to put the fire out in the sub-freezing temperatures.
“It was just my son and I at home,” Suarez said with tears in her eyes, black soot near her mouth and nose.
“It started from an oil fire on the stove. We were going to fry some chicken strips and my fiancé put the oil on high and then left with my daughter and I didn’t know he put it on so high. It just caught on fire and within seconds my whole ceiling was on fire.
“I tried to throw flour on it. Then I tried to smother it, like I threw a really thick hoodie over it and tried to smother it after I took it off of the heat but it didn’t stop it. It just went up. … As soon as I saw the ceiling catching fire I called for my dogs and my son and told them to ‘get out now.’
“I called my fiancé and told him he needed to get back. They rushed back and the whole house was in flames,” she said.
Suarez said her son, who is turning 9 in just a few weeks, ran out the door, forgetting a jacket and shoes. Both he and his sister were taken to their grandparents’ house in Clyde while Suarez and her fiancé waited for the flames to die and the smoke to clear from their home.
While the family is thankful everyone made it out, Suarez said they lost more than their home.
“My dog — I got two of my three dogs out, but I couldn’t find Athena,” she said, referring to a German shepherd. “We only have the one way out of the house and we were standing there at the side and she never came out.”
A ball python pet snake also is believed to have perished in the fire.
“I have my pigs out back, little mini pot belly pigs, and I don’t know what I’m going to do with them now or where am I going to put them.”
The children, while unharmed, are devastated, she said.
“They’re a mess — I think mostly because we didn’t get Athena out,” Suarez said. “We’ve had her four years. She’s 4; we’ve had her since she was just a little baby.
“It didn’t take long. It’s an old house and once it caught, it was just gone.”
The family lost everything, according to Berlin Township Fire Chief Andy Smith, who added the house was a total loss.
“Once the first engine arrived, fire was showing through most of the windows on the first story,” Smith said.
Firefighters planned to stay at the scene for a few hours after extinguishing the blaze “to get through all the hot spots and make sure it’s out,” Smith said.
“That was our whole life. We had flat screen TVs, Xbox Ones. It’s all gone,” Suarez said. “All of our clothes, our sectional, everything. All of it’s gone. My kids’ backpacks are in there with their school books. That’s all going to have to be replaced.”
A damage estimate was not available late Wednesday night.