Teen escapes burning house
Just as Danny Utz was consumed with the restructuring going on at his long-time employer, the Keller Manufacturing Co., now he’s also worrying about restructuring his house, which was consumed by fire last weekend.
Keller Manufacturing, where Danny is controller, is struggling to stay afloat, having announced the closing of two plants and many lay-offs. Danny has worked there for 30 years.
On Saturday morning, the Utz home near Lanesville and almost everything in it was destroyed, but the Utzes are thanking God that their granddaughter, who was asleep when the fire started, escaped unhurt.
At the time, Danny and his wife, Doris, were feeling good, participating in the five-mile walk at the Lanesville Heritage Weekend festival in crisp fall weather. Tasha Utz, their 13-year-old granddaughter who lives with them, was asleep in a bedroom when fire engulfed the adjacent room, the living room in the brick ranch home off the Lanesville Interchange Road (officially the Lanesville-Crandall Road).
Danny said a coiled wire beneath a floor lamp in a corner had a kink in it. A state fire marshal told Danny he believes the wire shorted out and set the room on fire.
About 9:30 a.m., Tasha was awakened by the sound of shattering and exploding glass. She opened her bedroom door and found the frame on fire and smoke filling the living room and hallway right in front of her.
Although she couldn’t see because of the heavy smoke, Tasha knew which way to get out. She turned left and walked about 20 feet through ‘a valley of fire’ (next to a basement handrail) that stayed intact. She walked toward the kitchen and out into the garage.
The Utzes said they think it’s miraculous that Tasha was not killed, let alone injured. She has long, blonde hair, but ‘not a hair was singed,’ Danny said. She was barefoot and had to open two doorknobs that were hot, but she suffered no burns.
‘You know God was with her, no doubt,’ said Doris, as salvage workers made their way in and out of burned-out rooms Monday afternoon. The floors were squishy with piles and piles of grey, burned insulation, and the sunshine poured in where the roof used to be.
Tasha ran down the blacktop driveway to the home of neighbors, Don and Sheila Deaton. Deaton sells fire extinguishers. He ran to the Utz house but the blaze was too intense for a fire extinguisher or a garden hose.
The house was gutted, and very little can be salvaged. Many family heirlooms and antique furniture are gone. Danny said they have insurance. He doesn’t know if the house’s basic structure is still sound or if they will have to rebuild, but they love the lot where they have lived more than 25 years.
Danny said his neighbors have been ‘absolutely unbelieveable.’ They had about 20 offers for a place to stay that night, ‘some by people we don’t even know,’ Danny said. (They’re staying with Doris’s brother, Jerry Cook, who lives nearby). They got one card with $200 in it, and yesterday morning, Utz’s friends in ‘the Keller family’ presented him with a card containing more cash. ‘This is unreal,’ Danny said.
‘But even more important are the prayers by all the people, the churches, the network that’s out there,’ he said. ‘Prayer is the most powerful thing of all.’