UNMATCHED LOCAL COVERAGE
The Journal-News has been with this story since the beginning. Staff writer Lauren Pack has been the first to report on several key developments in the investigation into the tragic death of firefighter Patrick Wolterman. Count on us as your No. 1 local news source.
In the 43 days since an arson fire killed Hamilton firefighter Patrick Wolterman, local and state agencies say they have been working non-stop to find the person or person responsible for setting the blaze at the Pater Avenue home.
Investigators have been tight-lipped about progress in the case and few new details have been released publicly. The Journal-News recently obtained a copy of the initial Hamilton fire report from the residence of Lester and Bertha Parker, 1310 Pater Ave., during the early morning hours.
The 13-page report that does not include the narrative of the fire scene, sheds little new light on the night Wolterman died. Hamilton Fire Chief Steve Dawson said the narrative is part of the ongoing investigative file and would not be released. State Fire Marshal’s Office refused to release reports from the Pater Avenue fire because it is an ongoing investigation, according to spokesman William Krugh.
“There really is no initial report. It is all part of the investigation right now,” Krugh said.
Wolterman, 28, was on the first floor of the home fighting the fire when the floor collapsed and he fell into the basement. Wolterman was “handling a charged hose line” when he fell, according to the Hamilton fire report. His injuries happened at 1:25 a.m., 14 minutes after a police officer responding to an alarm found heavy smoke showing from three sides of the two-story house.
The remainder of the report lists radio traffic from Butler County dispatchers and the firefighters and equipment coming and going from the scene.
Dawson was paged by dispatchers at 1:34 a.m. and Hamilton Fire Investigator Trevor Snider was noted in route to the scene at 1:51 a.m. Dawson said Snider would have contacted the fire marshal’s office for assistance in the investigation. At that time, dispatchers had already rerouted a medical helicopter to Fort Hamilton Hospital to transport Wolterman, but he died at the Hamilton hospital.
While police and fire officials are investigating Wolterman’s death as a homicide, his cause of death has not officially been determined by the Butler County Coroner’s Office. Martin Schneider, coroner’s office administrator said Tuesday they are still waiting for some lab testing results before making an official ruling.
The Parkers left their residence for a 45th wedding anniversary trip to Las Vegas just hours before the alarm in the home alerted police dispatchers.
“Heavy smoke coming out of it … too heavy to get close,” the officer says in scanner chatter.
A dispatcher also says they have a report of a fire at 1310 Pater Avenue. In a 911 call released Monday by the Butler County Sheriff’s Office, a man who was across the street at a church said, “Something is on fire.”
The officer tells the dispatcher there may be an “old man and woman” who live in the home.
At 1:13 a.m., the police officer tells the dispatcher, “there is heavy smoke coming from the cellar. There is an open cellar door in the back.”
Last month, Hamilton officials released a 20-minute audio tape of firefighters at the Pater Avenue home as they were fighting the fire, and the tragic moments when Wolterman was hurt.
In the audio, a firefighter can be heard saying, “Back out, back out.” Then another firefighter announces, “We’ve got a guy that’s still inside.”
About 10 minutes into the call, with Wolterman’s emergency alarm sounding in the background, a firefighter says, “I can hear his alarm going off. He has fallen though into the basement. I am trying to fight the fire …”
According to the fire report, the last fire unit cleared the scene at 4:37 p.m. Dec. 28.
A $25,000 reward is being offered for information that helps solve the case. Anyone with information on the Pater Avenue fire is asked to contact Hamilton police detectives at 513-868-5811 ext. 2002, or Crime Stoppers at 513-352-3040.