One Dead in East Liverpool House Fire

EAST LIVERPOOL — A fire of a yet-undetermined cause Sunday morning took the life of a 28-year-old Lisbon Street man despite rescue attempts by his father and a city firefighter, both of whom were burned during their efforts.

While fire officials have not released the name of the victim, other news sources were advised by family members that it was Kevin Riggle who perished in the blaze, which started in the top floor of the three-story brick home.

The city fire department was alerted via a 911 call at 6:56 a.m. of an attic fire, according to Chief Bill Jones, who said the three firefighters on duty responded with Assistant Chief Eric Croxall driving the first truck on the scene.

“They didn’t know until they got there that anyone was trapped inside. It was just an attic fire when we got the initial call,” Jones said.

As soon as Croxall arrived and learned there was someone inside, he entered the home without a hose line in an attempt to rescue the victim, according to Jones, who said, “There was too much fire. He was in full protective gear, and it burned him through his turn out gear, his coat, his sweatshirt. He has a pretty significant burn.”

Jones said Riggle’s father, who also was not identified Sunday, also had attempted to reach him but could not due to the heavy flames and smoke. He suffered burns, was treated at the scene by North Star Critical Care EMS and later flown to West Penn Hospital in Pittsburgh.

“The smoke was just too heavy for him to rescue his son,” Jones said.

There were five people inside the home when the fire began, according to the chief.

A third alarm was sounded at 7:01 a.m., bringing out an additional nine firefighters and Jones, and Liverpool Township Volunteer Fire Department was also called for mutual aid, providing three trucks and nine firefighters to battle the blaze.

Distraught family members, wrapped in heavy coats and blankets against the early morning cold, watched fearfully and hopefully as firefighters battled the blaze, turning to each other with hugs and tears as Chief Jones broke the news the rescue attempts were not successful.

City police Detective Darin Morgan, county coroner’s chief forensic investigator Brandi Phillips and the state fire marshal, along with his K-9 trained in accelerant detection, were on the scene to investigate, and Jones said this is nothing unusual in the case of a fire fatality.

“There is no reason as all to believe this is a suspicious fire,” Jones emphasized, saying the attic where the fire was centered is an open living space and that there were no barriers or other obstacles to keep the victim from having escaped the blaze. He said there was also no reason to believe Riggle was incapacitated prior to the fire.

The fire was concentrated in the attic portion of the house, but the upstairs bedrooms received some residual damage from water and falling ceilings.

Firefighter Alex Estell was able to safely bring a cat and a cage containing at least one ferret from the house, and Jones said there was also a dog which escaped unharmed, with another cat still missing but believed to be safe and hiding somewhere in the lower regions of the house where fire did not extend.

Jones praised the firefighters who responded Sunday, saying, “I can’t commend them enough for the job they did, considering what they had upon their arrival. They had no clue someone was trapped. Everything worked well today. The guys did everything they could to not have the outcome they did, but (the victim) probably succumbed before they even got there. They did a heck of a job.”

Among those on the job Sunday were the department’s rookies Nathan Butler and Jarod Wolfe, who were sworn in to their firefighter positions on Friday, and Jones said both men did well.

“Everything that was asked of them they handled well,” he said of the two new firefighters.

Despite the chief’s praise for their handling of the call, he said his firefighters always feel keenly the loss of a victim, and Sunday was no exception.

“We sat down after the fire and we all talked, just to make sure everyone was OK,” Jones said.

All units had cleared the scene by 11:01 a.m., and Jones said since the house is insured, he contacted a company to secure the windows to prevent further damage from weather, which was taking place by afternoon.

Jones said the coroner’s office will conduct an investigation on its end, and Phillips said she might have information by today.