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Feast Ruined By Flames, Pet Birds Saved

By:  Star Beacon - Shelley Terry

ASHTABULA — After weeks of shopping, decorating and cooking, for most city residents Christmas is over, but for the Ortiz family, of 1031 W. 43rd St., Wednesday was an important part of their Christian holiday season.

It was Epiphany, the feast day, noting the arrival of the three Wise Men.

Unfortunately, the Ashtabula Fire Department arrived instead.

“We were celebrating,” said Laoriano Ortiz, 20, who lives in the two-story white home with his parents, Neftali and Marie Ortiz. “Then, all this smoke; a fire started.”

No one was injured.

A neighbor, 14-year-old Manny Lucas said his brother came home from school at about 3:45 p.m. and told him the air outside was filled with heavy smoke.

“The smoke was all over,” Manny said. “You couldn’t tell which house was on fire.”

They called the fire department.

City firefighters and Ashtabula Township firefighters arrived shortly thereafter to find a fully involved fire at the Ortiz’s home. City police blocked off the road at West Avenue. According to the Ashtabula Fire Department, crews found fire in the house’s basement.

To the Ortiz family’s relief, firefighters and ambulance crews saved their pet birds from the smoke and fire.

The family has made its home on West 43rd Street since 2001 and hope to stay there. Last night, they stayed nearby with their older children until they can assess the damage to the home, and then they will decide what to do, a family member at the scene said.

Firefighters remained at the house until 6:45 p.m., according to a dispatcher’s report.

Damages are estimated at $15,000, according to the fire department. The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

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