Investigation continues following Indian Hill mansion fire

Investigation continues following Indian Hill mansion fire
Photo from Stratus Helicopters
Photo from Stratus Helicopters
The scene is closed off to anyone not involved in the investigation
The scene is closed off to anyone not involved in the investigation

INDIAN HILL, OH (FOX19) - An investigation is beginning into an Indian Hill fire that destroyed a $4 million mansion on Friday.

Flames and smoke were so high that the fire was reportedly seen as far as Milford and Loveland. Officers say at one point flames were over 30 feet high.

The fire broke out around 3:30 p.m. Friday afternoon in the 9600 block of Cunningham Road. The home was owned by the Decker family. Neighbors say it's hard to watch the house burn to the ground.

According to the 911 calls, firefighters were first dispatched to fire in an open field but moments later they discovered this fire was much more serious.

At 3:22 Friday afternoon, the first call comes in reporting a fire near Cunningham Road.

911 Operator: "9-1-1 Emergency Dispatch..

Caller 1: "Uh, hi... there is a fire across the street."

911 Operator: "What is it that is on fire? Can you tell?"

Caller 1:"I can't see it. They just told me to call 9-1-1."

911 Operator: "Is there a building on the property?"

Caller 1: "No ma'am."

911 Operator: "So it's an empty lot?"

Caller 1: "Correct."   

Then, just six minutes later at 3:28, another call came in.

911 Operator: "It's an actual building that is on fire?"

Caller 2: "Yeah, It's a residence. Yes."

911 Operator: "Okay."

Caller 2: "If you call the Indian Hill Rangers, they can get right to it."

911 Operator: "Okay, we have Indian-We, we already have the fire department in route to Buckingham."

Caller 2: "Okay"

911 Operator: "But the call we got was on an empty lot. Do you see any flames or smoke coming from the building?"

Caller 2: "Yes, the house is on fire. I'm looking at it right now burn."

911 Operator: "Okay, and what is your address?"

Caller 2: "It's not an empty lot, it's a it's a home."

Fire Captain Clarence Smith says initially, they ran into water supply issues. However, numerous departments from Clermont and Warren County helped fight the blaze.

"There's a private hydrant located back here at the residence, but it doesn't supply enough for the size fire that we had so we ended up setting up a tanker operation to overcome that," explains Smith.

The Deckers were not home when the fire started. Smith says no injuries have been reported.

According to the Hamilton County Auditor's web site, the home was 10 thousand square-feet with 22 total rooms. The total value of the home has been valued at over $4 million.

State fire marshals and Hamilton County Arson Task Force have been monitoring the scene, which is blocked off to the public, since Friday.

Fire Chief Steve Ashbrock believes a significant amount of time passed between when the Indian Hill mansion fire started Friday afternoon and when it was discovered. The initial call came from a driver passing by who thought he saw a fire in an open field. By the time firefighters arrived, the home may have been fully engulfed.

Investigators spent Monday sifting through the debris trying to determine how a multi-million dollar home went up in flames. Fire Chief Steve Ashbrock says they spent most of the day making the scene safe for investigators.

"There is a huge footprint of debris, most of which is unrecognizable," says Ashbrock. "Because of the number of hot spots remaining in the structure and the way the structure is knocked down, there is a lot of safety hazards in putting people in to where they need to be to look for fire cause."

Chief Ashbrock says the left side of the house is where they are focusing much of their efforts where bedrooms and common areas including the kitchen were located. As firefighters fought the flames Friday, neighbors say water shot up from Fox Hollow Road less than half a mile away. It turned out to be a water main break caused from so much water being pushed to the fire.

"It is not unusual in a fire fight when you move that amount of water to get a water main break," says Ashbrock.

The fire department called in several tanker trucks from other rural fire departments but it was already too late. With so much time lost before it was reported, Ashbrock says all they could do was wait.

"Something catches on fire and we don't know about it for an hour, then what you do is you see what we saw and that's a fire that is way ahead of the game," says Ashbrock.

Chief Ashbrock says they do know the home did not have a sprinkler system. Investigators will now begin looking at changes in wood, metal and even concrete to determine where and how this fire started. It could be anywhere from three days to a week to get those answers.

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