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14 tankers brought in to battle Wadsworth house fire

Arefirefighters begrehab after taking control fire heavily damaged home 14541 Juniper Ct. Wadsworth. | Joe Shuman~For Sun-Times Media

Area firefighters begin rehab after taking control of fire the heavily damaged the home at 14541 Juniper Ct. in Wadsworth. | Joe Shuman~For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: June 3, 2013 3:14PM

As if the Lee family needed any more stress on the morning after their 11-year-old home in the Evergreen Hills subdivision in Wadsworth was gutted by fire, two public insurance adjusters started pushing and shoving and one man took out a small bat and challenged the other.

Katey Lee was so upset she called 9-1-1 and the Lake County Sheriff’s Office sent out deputies, but both men had left the scene shortly before 10 a.m. Wednesday, May 1. Deputies took a report, and then as she sat at her neighbor’s house across the street, Katey began feeling ill and short of breath. Her heart was pounding, she said, so deputies called for an ambulance.

Her husband, Rick Lee, 49, stood in front of the shell of their home at 14511 Juniper Court and shook his head, glad he and his twin sons, Ricky and Ryan, 14, were able to get out of the house in time. “They were in the upstairs bedroom and I yelled at them to get out,” Rick said.

Now the morning after, he was hoping their two cats, Wrigley and Jeter, named for the Cubs stadium and future hall-of-fame player Derek Jeter of the New York Yankees, got out of the house safe. “I just hope they got up high in the basement. I don’t know. We and the boys just adored them,” he said.

Early Tuesday evening, Rick was cooking dinner for himself and the boys using the grill on the back elevated porch for brats and burgers. He started the grill, went back into the house, then came out and the grill “was hissing. I opened it and flames shot out,“ he said. He tried to use oven mitts to move the grill off the porch, but it was too hot. “Now it was making a big hissing noise,” he said. “I heard the window (on the house) cracking behind the tank,” he said.

He ran back inside to get two fire extinguishers while also calling 9-1-1. When he pulled the pin on the first one nothing happened. Same with the second one. “It seemed like it was taking a long time for Newport to get here,” he said. That’s when he yelled for the boys and they all got out safely.

“We lost everything but the clothes on our backs,” said his wife before the ruckus with the insurance adjusters made her feel ill.

“The house is a total disaster. We are waiting for the insurance company to come tonight,” Rick said. As he looked around at the multiple sheriff’s deputies that had responded to the fight he just shook his head. “You got to be kidding me,” he said.

There were no immediate arrests for the scuffle.

Fire Chief Mark Kircchoffer of the Newport Township Fire Protection District said they got the call at 5:22 p.m. and were able to get to the scene in three to four minutes. They immediately started upgrading the fire to a 4-alarm in order to bring in more tanker trucks because the rural subdivision does not have fire hydrants.

“We had 14 different departments bring tankers from as far away as Somers, Wisconsin. There were 27 departments involved, including change of quarters,” he said, referring to the way departments will cover another fire department’s calls while they are responding to an emergency.

Kircchoffer said that while the homeowners also described the propane tank problem to the fire marshal, the cause is still undetermined until the investigation is done.

There was no damage estimate available as of Wednesday afternoon.

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