Pets may have saved lives, but not house

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 2, 2003

FAYETTE TOWNSHIP - The Rockel family's two Great Danes truly gave meaning to the phrase "man's best friend."

South Point resident Rick Rockel credited the dogs with saving his family's lives by waking them up early Monday morning after a fire began to burn out of control in their two-story home at 3943 County Road 55 (Deering-Middle Leatherwood Road).

"The dogs were going crazy and it woke us up," he said. "If it was not for them, we might not have gotten out."

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Rick Rockel, his wife Deborah and daughter Carrie were asleep at the time, but were all able to escape without injury. The house and everything in it, however, were destroyed. He said he believes the fire started in the fireplace and eventually flames were shooting nearly 50 feet into the air.

Don Mootz, director of the Lawrence County Emergency Services, said that the fire departments were dispatched at 3:02 a.m. and did not leave the scene until more than eight hours later at 11:10 a.m.

The Rockels have lived in the house since 1997 and it had been added onto and remodeled, he said. Fortunately, they have insurance and plan to rebuild.

It is the loss of all the personal items that were inside that hurts the most, he said.

"All I have got is what I have on," he said. "It is all any of us have. It was horrible. We lost everything. We just sat here in shock and watched it burn."

Rockel said that it would have been worse without the response of the five volunteer fire departments - Burlington-Fayette No. 1, Fayette No. 2, Chesapeake, Perry and Lawrence - that battled the blaze and also saved his son's Ford Mustang that was parked in the garage.

A member of the Fayette No. 2 fire department said that it was a difficult fire to battle because of the type of home.

The lack of fire hydrants in the county did not help, Rockel said. The fire departments drew some additional water from the swimming pool.

Overall, Rockel said he wishes he had checked the batteries in the smoke detectors.

This is the second house fire that hit Lawrence County in the last week. Fire destroyed a house on North Second Street in Hanging Rock Wednesday afternoon.