A former Modine manufacturing plant employees says one of his own may have saved a life during a fire that engulfed the shut down factory with smoke on Jan. 29.
Former Modine worker Tom Liskai says Jamie Haas, also a former employee and Pemberville-Freedom Fire Department volunteer firefighter, responded just in time to save a contractor’s life.
Haas says he was just doing his job, and doesn’t want to take all the credit for it. He believes because he once worked at Modine, his fellow employees are making a bigger deal of it than it really deserves.
“We don't like talking about things like that. I don't want to be known as a hero, I just did what we were told to do and that's it,” Haas said.
“That's just one of those situations, and like I said, it was something where I did nothing out of the ordinary that nobody else wouldn't have done,” Haas continued.
Nonetheless, Liskai, a Sandusky County resident, says Haas deserves most of the credit and the public should know about his action.
The fire started when workers from A.I.M. Recycling in Ashtabula, Ohio were removing a paint booth. The company overseeing the operations was Stuart B. Miller and Associates.
“It was determined that three contractor companies were working inside the plant dismantling equipment and all were ordered out so a head count could be taken,” said the fire report,
Along with Pemberville-Freedom, Troy Township and Wayne Fire Department was requested to the scene to assist in search and ventilation. Pemberville police and a Wood County park ranger also arrived at the scene.
As Haas arrived, he asked if everybody was out of the building. Two men approached him from the side of the building and said one of their buddies was still inside.
“So what I did is I told a couple guys that were there to start opening doors. I told one guy to take the truck around back and open doors because the building was full of smoke,” Haas, a Pemberville resident, said.
“All I did was I opened up doors and I went around the side of the south building. I opened up the big overhead doors and started yelling in. We heard the guy answer it. I told the other guys to keep yelling, so I'm going to go down and open up another door, get the door open, and basically that's all I did. It's no big deal,” Haas continued.
“It's not like I went in there and found him and drug him out or anything like that. We're yelling into the building, he answered back, and we told him to come this way — come to our voice. I told him to get down low, just basic stuff. It was not like I had to go in and drag him out or anything,” Haas said.
Liskai said he understood that Haas and firefighters who arrived at the scene also made an effort to flash lights and blow car horns into the building so the man could find his way outside. The rescued man’s name was not released in the fire report.
As crews continued to search the building and doors were opened for ventilation, command was advised that two more workers were not accounted for so the search continued. But it was determined that the other two missing workers had left the plant and headed home.
The fire report says the rest of the building was ventilated and final extinguishment and overhaul was completed. Modine maintenance supervisor Denny Bower was advised that operations inside the plant could not continue until the sprinkler system was repaired and the portable fire extinguishers were refilled, and the PFFD is to be contacted when that is completed.
The fire report said workers using a torch to cut up equipment started the fire. The report adds that the plant’s sprinkler system had two heads that activated as well as the fire pump that was operating.
“This kept the fire contained to the area,” the report continued. “Sprinklers shut down and hand lines were used for final extinguishment. Smoke was cleared by PPV fans.”
Workers used approximately 30 portable fire extinguishers on the fire prior to the arrival of the fire department.
Much of the equipment inside the plant, located at 615 South Bierly Avenue, had been removed after an auction in January. Pemberville mayor Jim Opelt says the village is working on finding another company to purchase the building, and the village has leads.
“Our biggest downer is still Modine because that’s sitting empty but we’ve had four or five inquiries on it,” Opelt said. “Two inquires were from out of state, including one from Arizona, so we feel pretty good about that but we’re like everybody else — still struggling, too, but there are some positives.”