Amputee credited with putting out Niles high-rise fire
Published 9:19 am Tuesday, October 13, 2015
A 65-year-old amputee from Niles is credited with helping put out a fire at the Niles Housing Commission Saturday night.
Mark Granning, who is missing the majority of his right leg and uses a wheel chair to get around, said he managed to get a fire extinguisher to apartment 320 where a fire had broken out just minutes earlier.
The Army veteran and 1969 Niles High School graduate said he was able to knock down most of the fire from just outside the doorway using a fire extinguisher that was located in the hallway.
Another resident, Loretta Fortune, brought him a second fire extinguisher after the first one ran out.
Granning said he never really thought about his own safety.
“I would do it again,” said Granning, who is one of more than 150 people living in the seven-story public housing complex at 251 Cass St. “More people today have to start doing things to take care of other people. If not, it is just going to be chaos.”
Granning said he lives on the third floor next to the unit where the fire started and heard some commotion while in bed watching television around 9:30 p.m.
When he got in his wheelchair and went next door to find out what was going on, he found the apartment unit on fire.
From there, Granning activated an alarm in the hallway and got a fire extinguisher.
“I wheeled up to the door and started using the fire extinguisher,” Granning said. “I used that whole fire extinguisher and got the fire out… I backed up because the smoke was bad and then, boom, it started back up again.”
Granning got the attention of another person in the hallway — Fortune — who brought him another fire extinguisher.
“I used the second fire extinguisher and got the fire out then, but the smoke was so bad,” he said. “I could barely see the wall in front of me. I had to feel along the wall to get to the stairwell because there was fresh air out there.”
Firefighters eventually arrived and helped transport Granning down the stairs.
“A fireman asked how I was planning on getting down. I said, ‘Don’t you worry one bit, I guarantee I would’ve gotten down the stairs. I would’ve gotten out of my wheelchair and gone down one step at a time.’”
When asked why he decided to help put out the fire instead of evacuating, Granning said he is the type of person who responds in a crisis — something he learned while in the Army and from his father, Jim Granning, a former Niles City firefighter.
“I learned a lot of things in the military — when something needs to be done you don’t really think about it,” he said. “You just do it.”
Granning said he would prefer not to talk about what caused the amputation of his leg.
Juvenile fire play
Niles Fire Chief Larry Lamb said an initial investigation shows that the fire started as a result of a juvenile playing with fire in the apartment unit.
Nine fire stations were called in, Lamb said, due to the size of the building and the number of tenants who might need assistance getting out. Five ambulances were also called because of the potential for many people needing medical treatment.
Firefighters arrived to find heavy smoke on the third floor with residents attempting to flee.
The fire was out by the time firefighters made it to the room.
“Fortunately enough it was quickly controlled by a neighbor,” Lamb said. “I think they (firefighters) ended up finishing everything up with a 2 1/2 gallon water extinguisher. The neighbor dumping the fire extinguisher on the couch was enough to at least keep it at bay and he pretty much had it out by the time we got up there.”
No one was injured, Lamb said, although three people were taken to the hospital as a precaution.
Lamb said there was heavy smoke and heat damage to the room where the fire started and some smoke damage in the third floor hallway.
Lamb thanked the two people who helped put out the fire, but cautioned people to make sure they are safe and have a way out before attempting to do the same.
“It is a dual edged sword because the main concern is the safety of the people inside. … What we don’t want to see is someone try to fight a fire and become quickly overcome,” he said. “In this incident here he was able to control the fire and get off the floor safely, so this was a positive.”