By Deb Patterson
MILFORD – John McQuad and Micah Mansfield, employees of Widman Builders, don’t consider themselves heroes in their actions at a house fire at 410 W. Catherine St., Milford, Wednesday afternoon. In fact, even their boss and company owner, Jay Widman, is not surprised at what they did.
McQuad and Mansfield were tearing off the roof in front of the home at 412 W. Catherine St. “We both heard them screaming from the house,” said Mansfield. “There was a woman who was down below. John looked over and saw smoke coming from the upper front window and saw a woman holding her baby out the window. She was trying to get it out of the smoke and fire.”
Quickly they grabbed a ladder and placed it on the house, by the upper floor window. McQuad quickly went up the ladder, grabbed the baby and handed it down to one of the women who had gotten out of the house. “Then there were two men and a man come out the window and down the ladder,” Mansfield recalls. The two workers tried to get those they rescued away from the house because, by this time, flames could be seen and heavy smoke. It was Mansfield who called 911 to report the fire.
But their work wasn’t done. They had an equipter – a motorized trailer – sitting between the two homes. Because it contains gasoline, they wanted to get it away from the fire.
One of the females rescued told McQuad and Mansfield her boyfriend was still in the house. Not knowing where, Mansfield went to the back of the home and kicked in the back door. However, due to the heavy smoke, he didn’t enter and could do nothing else. However, a short time later a man was seen stumbling over the fence and disappeared.
“I just feel like God put us in the right place to be here, just for that moment,” stated Widman. He stated he was not surprised by their actions. “You know when you’ve got good people working for you. There is nothing heroic about what we did … we went because somebody needed help. These are humble guys. Good guys.”
Widman also noted normally the crew takes an hour lunch. That day they only took 45 minutes. “They would not have heard the screaming if they were still on lunch in their vehicles on the other side of the house.”
Milford Police Department responded to the scene, finding the home fully engulfed. While they learned everyone was out of the house, they began tracking down the people who were in the home. There was one individual, Antonio Amah Lee Brown, who was in the home at the time of the fire, they were attempting to track down.
Police were then told that a male ran from the scene before police arrived. It was while authorities were trying to locate Brown they were notified of a garage being entered and a 4-wheeler taken. The theft of the 4-wheeler was connected to Brown and the search began.
The 4-wheeler was found abandoned approximately four blocks from where it was taken, after the engine apparently gave out. Officers from Milford, Kosciusko County Sheriff’s Office and Syracuse, located Brown in a home on East Street, hiding in a bathroom. When confronted by the homeowner, Brown ran from the home into the hands of police.
An ambulance was called for Brown who suffered a cut on his foot. Milford Town Marshal Derek Kreider stated the cause of the injury is not clear, but is believed to have come from the fire scene, when he kicked out a window. Brown was taken to the hospital for treatment where he again ran from police, but was quickly apprehended.
Brown, 25, 8531 Valencia Place, Fort Wayne, has initially been charged with two counts of residential entry, theft and burglary. Additional charges may be filed.
The fire investigation has been turned over to the Kosciusko County Sheriff’s Office according to Steve Farber, assistant fire chief for Milford Fire Department.
Farber noted the fire was hard to fight due to the metal roof and a heavy fire load underneath that roof. No firefighters were injured battling the fire.
A fire hydrant at the scene as well as one near Milford School were used to keep a constant supply of water to battle the blaze. The use of Turkey Creek Fire Territory’s ladder truck also aided in attacking the fire from above.
Farber stated he has been told that the Red Cross has been contacted to assist the families affected by the fire.
The fire completely destroyed the home and all its contents. The fire department was called at 1:11 p.m.
In addition to Milford and Turkey Creek Fire Territory responding, Plain Township and New Paris fire departments assisted with manpower. Firefighters from the assisting departments were at the scene until approximately 4 p.m. with Milford firefighters remaining until later. The department was called back to the scene shortly after 9 p.m. when it was believed the garage had caught fire. However there was no fire at that location, but a bonfire at a nearby residence.
The initial story and photos of the fire can be read here.