A Sandusky family watched as their home was gutted Friday afternoon after a fire started in an air conditioner.
Hugh and Linda Craig and their son, Hugh Craig Jr., stood by at a neighbor's house, where a plaque read, "Peace to all those who enter," while the flames destroyed a lifetime of belongings.
The fire at 1329 Vine St. started in an air conditioner in a side window at the front of the house, officials said.
Linda Craig, 61, said she saw a plume of smoke coming from the unit, which was plugged in but turned off.
When her husband unplugged it, the breakers in the house blew. The couple said they opened a door to clear the smoke but turned around to see their house on fire.
"He went out. I grabbed the phone and called 911, then I grabbed a kitty and got out," Linda, 61, said.
As she sat worrying about her two other cats, firefighter Jason Roesch handed Hugh Jr. a white-and-orange tabby named Buster who was hiding in the charred, smoky structure. The third cat was later found.
Hugh, who didn't have time to grab his shoes, stood in his socks watching the firefighters at work as the rain fell and the blaze attacked the first floor.
After the flames were gone, Hugh Jr. watched firefighters throwing out the burnt remains of the life his family had, not knowing what he could salvage.
Sandusky fire Battalion Chief Mike Yost said when he arrived, flames were licking at the front door and windows. He said they were able to stop the fire quickly but the first floor sustained extensive water, fire and smoke damage. The second floor sustained moderate smoke damage.
The family was assisted by the Firelands chapter of the American Red Cross and is staying at a nearby hotel.
Want to help?
The family needs clothes and household items. They also lost toys, stuffed animals and items for Hugh Jr.'s children.
Hugh, 72, wears a medium shirt, 34-inch pants and size 11 1/2 shoes. Linda, 61, wears a 3X shirt, 2X stretch pants and a size 6 shoe. Hugh Jr. wears an extra-large shirt, 36x30 pants and a 9 1/2 inch shoe.
Donations can be dropped off to the home of their relative, James Clem, at 2224 Olds St.