MANSFIELD ─ Teamwork stopped a fire from turning into a blaze, preventing potential life and property loss.
Richland County Common Pleas Court security officers Ryan Ryder, Wayne Liggett and an unknown community member comprised the impromptu team.
Liggett said sometime before noon on Wednesday, he and Ryder were both working at the juvenile court (411 S. Diamond Street) when they heard someone yelling to Diamond Laundromat across the street.
“Is there anybody in here?” the man who drove past yelled.
The court’s door was open, so the person caught the officers’ attention. Liggett said when he looked over, he saw part of the laundromat’s entrance was on fire. The flames were about eight inches high and thick smoke kept coming out.
The duo asked the staff at the court’s front desk to call 9-1-1 right away. Ryder, who is a volunteer firefighter EMT with Washington Township Fire Department, ran across the street.
Ryder told Richland Source on Thursday that when he got to the laundromat, the driver was checking inside to make sure no one was there. He also did a quick sweep and looked for a fire extinguisher or a bucket but found no signs of them.
The entrance, partly made of wood, was hot and smoky, Ryder said, but it was still passable. The driver tried to put out the fire with a gallon jug filled with water and told Ryder to get some tools from his truck.
Ryder said he got a hand tool in the truck and started ripping the wall at the entrance.
Liggett also rushed to the scene soon after Ryder got there. He said he found the stairs in the back of the building and went up to the second floor, beating on the door.
“You could tell someone lives up there with air conditioner and everything else,” he said.
He told the lady who answered the door to leave right away. He said the resident had no idea what was happening downstairs and was a little reluctant to evacuate at first, worrying about her cat.
Liggett said it took him some effort to convince the lady to leave the building and move her car. He also called the owner of the building, notifying him of the fire.
Downstairs, Ryder and the driver put out most of the fire after a few rounds of refilling the jug and ripping out the wall altogether. Ryder said the situation was controlled before the fire department arrived.
According to the fire department, the fire was started by a carelessly discarded cigarette butt. Someone set the butt on top of the window sill instead of putting it in an available receptacle. The butt fell between the inside and outside walls, which accumulated many dry leaves, and ignited the fire.
Fortunately, the fire only damaged part of the entranceway and did not get into the building.
Ryder said he gave lots of credit to the driver but he didn’t have a chance to ask the name. He gave that person a fist bump and thanked him for the help.
With six years of volunteering at the fire department, Ryder said the incident on Wednesday was not out of his realm.
“I kind of did what I felt was natural, just helping the community out,” he said.
While not knowing if there’s anyone in the laundromat before rushing out, Ryder said he felt the obligation to help.
Liggett, who has worked in law enforcement for 39 years, also said he encountered similar circumstances before. He was glad about the result because things could have been a lot worse if nobody had noticed the fire in a timely fashion.
“It’s important to catch it (the fire) when you see it,” he said.
He also restated the importance of businesses having fire extinguishers on-site, which would have helped a lot in this case.