Local News

Arson Suspected in Rescue Blaze

(Michigan City, IN) - Members of a construction crew in Michigan City quite possibly saved the lives of a woman and four year old boy inside a burning mobile home in what police suspect was arson.

Pat O’Brien, 67, of Michigan City said he doesn’t consider himself a hero, though.


“I don’t know about that.  I think instinct takes over. We just did whatever we had to do,” he said.


Michigan City Fire Department spokesperson Tia Free said firefighters about 8:30 a.m. on Tuesday responded to Dunewood Village Mobile Home Community along Indiana 212 on the city’s far east side.


A caller reported a residence on fire and two people along with a dog were trapped inside.


Before firefighters arrived, O’Brien and he and two members of his crew were pouring cement for driveways at several new homes in the trailer park. 


O’Brien said they heard glass breaking then saw smoke and flames coming from the single wide mobile home.  He said they ran over and started yelling in hopes of drawing the attention of anyone who might be inside. They also opened the front door to try and go inside but were driven away by intense heat and heavy smoke.


O’Brien said they started busting windows out of the home and continued to scream when they heard what sounded like someone inside the dwelling. He said about half of the home was on fire with flames reaching about 10 feet high when, suddenly, a woman approached one of the broken windows. The men reached in and grabbed her then carried the woman out through the broken window at the rear of the home.


Moments later, O’Brien said the boy looking very frightened with soot on his face came to another broken window a short distance away. He was also safely guided through the opening in the window frame.


After the boy nodded his head that he was thirsty, O’Brien said he ran to his truck and grabbed a bottle of water for him to drink.


“He was in shock, I’m sure.  He was shaking pretty good,” he said.


The dog was also taken out of the home through a broken window.


Firefighters arrived a short time later.


“If we had waited for the fire department, I don’t think they would have made it,” O’Brien said.


Free said the 77-year-old woman, Sandra Root, was airlifted from Franciscan Health in Michigan City to a burn unit in Ft. Wayne.  The woman suffered burns to the inside of her throat from breathing heated air, she said.


Free said the boy was treated at a local hospital for undisclosed minor injuries and later released. The name of the boy was not released.


Authorities said the unharmed dog was placed into the custody of Michigan City Animal Control.


The mobile home was considered a total loss.


“There’s not much left inside of it. It was pretty far gone when we got there,” Free said.


According to police, the initial findings of the ongoing investigation revealed the fire was intentionally set.  So far, police have not shed light on exactly how they believe the fire was started. Local law enforcement detectives and investigators from the fire department are working together on the case.

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