The blaze started in a bedroom and quickly spread to the rest of the two-story home, which is between Neil and Reese streets.
The occupants said they initially thought little of the burning smell, but quickly realized something was wrong.
“My back was facing the kitchen, and I was like, ‘Is that smell coming from my cigarette?’” said Willie Humphrey, who lived in the home. “And (someone else) said, ‘Oh, hell no. Something is burning’ Everyone then got out”
Emergency crews were dispatched to the scene at about 4:30 p.m. Scores of people gathered as the events unfolded.
It took 14 Sandusky firefighters about 15 minutes to extinguish the flames, but much longer to clear smoke from the area.
“The wind had a big effect on the growth of the fire,” Sandusky fire Capt. Dave Degnan said.
Firefighters used axes to smash out windows, creating bigger holes to allow the smoke to escape. By about 5:15 p.m., the fire was out and the smoke had dissipated.
“It took us longer than usual,” Degnan said.
Firefighters spent about an hour investigating, trying to pinpoint a possible cause for the blaze.
This they know for certain: It was not sparked by any electrical malfunction.
“It’s undetermined right now,” Degnan said. “We can’t find an exact source to where the origin of the fire happened. We know it started in one of the bedrooms. We think it might have been kids playing with matches, but we don’t know for sure”
Humphrey lived in the home with two children, firefighters said, but those two children were not home during the fire.
Humphrey was babysitting the three children who were there — ages 2, 4 and 6 — and there was also a man visiting at the time.
The home was valued at about $50,000. It sustained $30,000 in damage and an additional $10,000 damage to the contents inside, Degnan said.
The fire left the interior fully charred and unlivable. More than 50 percent of the structure was damaged, prompting the building department to condemn it, firefighters said.
An American Red Cross official was working late Friday to place the family in a motel for the night.
“We’re glad that no one was injured” Degnan said.