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Man escapes house fire, credits smoke detector

Jun. 15, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

LESAGE -- Joe Fragale credits his home's smoke detector and a burst of adrenaline with saving his life Friday morning at 5707 Ohio River Road.

The homeowner woke up coughing in the midst of pitch-black smoke that shrouded the television he had left on. The smoke extended out of his bedroom's open door and into the main living area.

Knowing the house was on fire, Fragale turned to his window air conditioning unit. He tried to pull it out to no avail. Then with a panic-induced burst of adrenaline, he ripped it from the window and climbed through.

There was so much smoke coming from outdoor eaves that Fragale said he still had difficulty seeing as he prepared for the estimated six-foot drop.

"It was a nightmare," he said. "It was a living nightmare."

Ohio River Road Volunteer Fire Capt. Mike Lister said crews found heavy fire and smoke coming from the roof, which partly collapsed along with its ceiling below. He said Fragale's survival was a testament to his smoke detector.

"There was a lot of smoke," Lister said. "The main floor was full of smoke. He's pretty lucky if he was able to get out with that much smoke ... If he had still been asleep without a smoke detector, he probably would have succumbed to the smoke inhalation before he ever woke up."

Fragale, the home's lone occupant, escaped without serious injury, as did eight cats and a dog that were kept outside. Among the animals were six kittens kept Friday morning in an end table several yards from the burning house.

Lost among the charred rubble was deed work to more than 800 pieces of property, Fragale said. It was part of his home-based business that completes contract work for those who own real estate.

"I know all of that stuff is destroyed," he said. "That's the nightmare. Wow."

Lacking manpower locally forced Lister's department to call upon counterparts from five area fire departments. Those volunteers came from Barboursville, Ona and Green Valley, along with others from across the Ohio River in Proctorville and Rome Township, Ohio.

That response forced firefighters to use W.Va. 2, also known as Ohio River Road, as a parking lot for their firetrucks and water hoses. That caused the heavily traveled roadway to be closed for nearly five hours.

Follow Curtis Johnson at Facebook.com/curtisjohnsonHD and via Twitter @curtisjohnsonHD.

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