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Passersby rescue 93-year-old man from burning house, fire under investigation

Emil Whitis • Dec 8, 2011 at 4:38 PM

A carload of homegrown 20-somethings stopped Wednesday morning and alerted a 93-year-old man that his Sherman Street home was on fire. 

The three men pounded on Robert Wilson’s door until he finally emerged on the porch in his pajamas.  

“It was a good thing for Mr. Wilson that those guys were coming through,” said Shawn Miller, Wilson’s neighbor.

“It could’ve been a lot worse.”

Wilson had been sleeping soundly in his bed at about 2:30 a.m. as a blaze ravaged a vacant home next door. 

The neighboring fire licked for some time until it finally caught fire to the outside of Wilson’s house, near his bedroom wall.

The fire in the vacant home was set intentionally, Sandusky fire marshal Rudy Ruiz said.   

“There’s no electricity to that house,” Ruiz said. “Someone set it on fire.”

The blaze went unnoticed until three Sandusky men — Ashley Bates, 27; Kortland Bates, 24; and Justin Kromer, 27 — passed by in a car.  

“When we turned the corner we saw the flames,” Kromer said. “They were shooting out pretty high.”

They called 911 and then began to wake up the neighborhood, knocking on doors until a resident could verify no one was trapped inside the burning home.

Then they went to Wilson’s home.

“It was on fire right next to where he was sleeping,” Kromer said. 

Miller said she had just turned off the TV and was headed to bed when she heard the men yelling outside.

“I didn’t know what they were yelling about, but I went out to see,” Miller said. “And then I saw the fire. It was huge.”

Police and firefighters arrived within minutes of the 911 call. 

Officers escorted Wilson off the porch and into a cruiser while firefighters battled the blaze for more than an hour.

They were at the scene until about 5 a.m. but had to return again at 7:30 a.m. when the fire restarted, Miller said.

“It wasn’t just smoking a little — there were flames,” she said.  

To read more about the criminal investigation into the fire, pick up Thursday's Register.

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