‘Off to the races it went’: Large Franklin Twp. fire started in one home, spread quickly

A huge fire destroyed two houses and damaged two more in the 6900 block of Torrington Drive in Franklin Township, according to Franklin Twp. Fire Chief Michael Hannigan. Hannigan said that they were first called to the scene at 11:07 p.m., and crews arrived to find heavy fire in the back of a house, which soon spread to the house next to it. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF
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A huge fire destroyed two houses and damaged two more in the 6900 block of Torrington Drive in Franklin Township, according to Franklin Twp. Fire Chief Michael Hannigan. Hannigan said that they were first called to the scene at 11:07 p.m., and crews arrived to find heavy fire in the back of a house, which soon spread to the house next to it. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF

Franklin Twp. firefighters and an official from the Ohio State Fire Marshal’s office spent part of Monday morning investigating a huge fire that destroyed two houses and damaged two more in Franklin Twp.

Franklin Twp. Fire Chief Michael Hannigan said crews were called to the 6900 block of Torrington Drive about 11:07 p.m. Sunday night and arrived to find heavy smoke in the back of one house, which quickly spread to the house next door.

As of late Monday afternoon, he did not have an estimate on the damage to both houses which were devastated along with two other houses that sustained heat damage to the siding. Several cars were damaged in the blazes, and four adults and a child have been displaced, Hannigan said.

No injuries to residents or firefighters were reported, he said. No cause has been identified by investigators.

Explore MORE: 2 houses destroyed, 2 damaged at Franklin Twp. fire

Hannigan said the house where the fire originated had elevated decks on two floors, a pool and a tiki bar.

“There was plenty of wood, plenty of oxygen, and off to the races it went,” Hannigan said.

The largest challenge in fighting the blaze was the water supply as that area of Franklin Twp. does not have water lines or fire hydrants. Many of the homes in that part of Warren County are above the Great Miami Aquifer which is one of the largest sources of water in North America.

Because of that, many people rely on private water wells, even though many have sewer service from Warren County.

Explore MORE: PHOTOS: Aftermath of large Franklin Twp. fire that destroyed multiple homes

Fire crews called for aid from surrounding fire departments in Butler, Warren, and Montgomery counties, particularly tanker trucks to go to the city of Franklin or to Poasttown School in adjacent Madison Twp. for additional water resupplies. He said many of the tanker trucks came from the rural areas in eastern Warren County and western Butler County.

Hannigan said the lack of fire hydrants can take some time to establish a significant supply. He said fire trucks first arrive with about 1,000 gallons of water, he said, but once that it was expended, crews have to wait for more to arrive.

He said that by the end they had used about 12,000 to 13,000 gallons of water available in tankers from several fire departments lined up on Castlebrook Drive, but the system took about a half-hour to set up.

“It’s just how it is,” Hannigan said. “It doesn’t mean I like it, but it’s how it is.”

There were no injuries in the fire, which brought in fire crews from Warren, Butler and Montgomery counties.By late Monday morning, neighbors were continuing to digest the damage. John O’Donnell, who has lived in the neighborhood for 25 years, said the scene overnight was “total chaos” because of all the activity. O’Donnell said he could not remember seeing a fire that bad since he’s lived in the neighborhood.

“I feel so bad for my neighbors,” he said.

Ellen Haddix of Middletown was visiting family down the street, but could not leave as fire trucks and other first responders were blocking Torrington Drive. She and her family members walked down the street to see the fire.

“It was devastating,” Haddix said.

Rechell Hisle, a resident of one of the burned houses, was holding her grandson and fell asleep in the living room. When she woke up, she walked toward the back of the house and saw the fire. She grabbed her grandson, woke up her fiance, got out of the house and called 911.

From there, she said, there was nothing to do but wait and watch as the fire spread and burned the house. Hisle said that the fire department arrived 10-15 minutes after she called.