COLUMBIANA - Sandra and Larry Early lost more than a garage in a fire on their property Wednesday. They also lost the 1962 GMC pickup Mr. Early has spent the last five years refurbishing.
The Earlys have lived at 2771 Lower Elkton Road in Fairfield Township the last 30 years. Mrs. Early was working elsewhere when her husband noticed something was wrong with the garage around 12:30 p.m.
Mr. Early was looking through a back window of their two-story home when he saw smoke and then decided to walk from the house to the four-car garage.
The cement block garage with a wood frame roof was insulated and featured a wood-burning stove. When Early opened the door he realized the problem was too big for him to handle.
"That's probably what made it worse," he said of opening the door on what he realized was a fire that was then burning out of control. Opening a door to a room that is burning adds more oxygen, fueling the fire further.
He quickly called the Columbiana Fire Department, which responded along with the Leetonia department.
"It was fully engulfed when the firefighters got here," he said.
Frank Nulf, one of the Columbiana assistant fire chiefs, said the garage was "mostly on the ground" when the department arrived. Firefighters had the blaze under control within 15 minutes.
While the fire was mostly burning on the side of the garage opposite the wood burner, Nulf believes it may be to blame.
Mr. Early said he was advised by firefighters that when he opened the door it could have caused the fire to blow up over the attic to the other side.
Nulf said the garage also had electric going to it, so that could be a factor. The department is continuing to investigate.
Mrs. Early said the garage is insured and that in addition to the GMC truck they lost two riding lawnmowers and her husband's slate roofing material.
"It had to be a pretty hot fire to take all that down," she said.
Another vehicle outside the garage nearby was also burned. It belonged to a family friend and Mr. Early was working on it, Mrs. Early said.
Thankfully, the couple had not pulled their other later model GMC Sonoma pickup truck into the garage the day before, she added.
Mr. Early was considering putting the truck in the garage to change the oil. He has spent the last five years working on the other truck, a short-bed 1962 model he most recently sandblasted.
Standing on the property watching firefighters make sure no more hot spots were burning, he pointed to the debris, picking out pieces of the truck that were barely noticeable after the fire.
"There's a door .. there's another door," he said with obvious disappointment.
The fire did not destroy a small barn located only a few feet away from the garage that until the last year housed animals like cattle and horses.
Mrs. Early said since they got rid of the animals the roof of the barn caved in and her husband was also working on getting that fixed.
A small shed is also located on the property not far from the garage, and was not affected.
Firefighters from both departments were still putting water on the rubble around 2 p.m. The home is located not far from Kelly Park Road.