By Keith Gushard
“Even though it’s a sad situation, perhaps good things can come from it,” Vicki Neal said Friday afternoon.
Neal, vice president of Linesville Area Chamber of Commerce, is helping to coordinate relief efforts for the Raymond and Heather Baker family, which lost one of its six sons as well as the family home in an early Friday morning fire.
Zachary A. Baker, 16, an 11th grade student at Conneaut Area High School, died from smoke inhalation from a fire that chased the Bakers and their children from their Conneaut Township home at 14948 Airport Road, according to Scott Schell, Crawford County coroner. Royal Coleman Funeral Home of Linesville is handling the pending funeral arrangements, Schell said.
“It could have been so much worse,” a tearful Heather Baker said quietly to a Meadville Tribune photographer Friday afternoon at the fire scene. Burnt school papers and toys littered the barren yard of the Bakers’ home. Her husband, Raymond, leaned over the railing of the porch and looked pensive at nothing in particular as Heather spoke.
The home was a mobile home with a 12-foot by 30-foot addition, said Chief William Mickle of Linesville Volunteer Fire Department.
Heather Baker awoke to discover the home full of smoke around 1:20 a.m., Mickle said.
Raymond and Heather Baker were able get out of the home along with their sons Andrew, 13, Matthew, 10, and twins Jacob and Alexander, 9 months, Mickle said. Their eldest son, Joshua, was spending the night next door at the children’s grandparents home.
Zachary was in a bedroom at the opposite end of the home and was unable to escape. Raymond Baker broke out a window at Zachary’s bedroom in an attempt to rescue the teen, but was driven back by extreme smoke, heat and fire. Zachary’s remains were found inside the bedroom by firemen.
Mr. and Mrs. Baker and the four other children in the home all were taken to Meadville Medical Center for treatment of smoke inhalation and Raymond Baker also was treated for injuries to one of his hands and arms. They all were released after treatment.
The fire is considered accidental following an investigation by a Pennsylvania State Police fire marshal from the Meadville barracks, but the exact cause hasn’t been determined.
“There’s nothing suspicious,” Mickle said of the fire’s cause.
The fire had its origin in the living room which was part of the 12-foot by 30-foot addition, he said. The addition included a roof over the original mobile home, apparently making the fire grow once it got started, Mickle said.
“It worked its way up inside and turned the home into a giant oven,” he said.
The fire was roaring when the first of units from 11 area volunteer fire departments arrived on the scene.
“I was on the second truck and the home was engulfed in flames,” Mickle said of the blaze, noting it was visible from Linesville’s fire station about a mile and a half away.
Volunteer fire departments from Summit Township, North Shenango Township, Springboro, Conneaut Lake, Conneautville, Conneaut Lake Park in Crawford County, Hempfield Township in Mercer County, and Andover and Pierpont, Ohio, assisted Linesville at the scene along with Conneaut Lake and Meadville ambulance services.
Even as the last of the fire units were checking back into service Friday morning, plans were being organized to assist the Baker family with Neal posting updates on Facebook, the social media Internet site.
“Even if you don’t know them, you feel a part of them in some way and want to help,” she said, noting both Zachary and his father have been active in Boy Scouts.
At least four area businesses placed donation jars to benefit the family and there is a financial donation link to benefit the Baker family at the First Baptist Church of Linesville’s Internet site, Neal said. That site is fbclinesville.org.
A benefit for the Baker family is scheduled for Sunday from noon to 6 p.m. at the Old Mill Cafe, 534 Penn St., Linesville, Neal said.
The community is collecting clothing for the family since it lost all its belongings with Neal’s store, Vicki’s Flip Flopps, 126 W. Erie St., Linesville, as the collection site.
“This community just pulls together when we need to,” Neal said.
You can help
Clothing donations to benefit the Raymond and Heather Baker family may be made at Vicki’s Flip Flopps, 126 W. Erie St., Linesville. The store is open today from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Clothing needed is:
Pants in sizes 44-inch waist and 30-inch inseam; 38-inch waist and 30-inch inseam; 36-inch waist and 30-inch inseam; and boys’ Husky size 16.
Shirts in sizes 3XL, XL and adult small
Shoes in sizes 9, 10, 101/2, and 13
Pants in sizes 18 to 20 or XL
Shirts in size XL
Shoes in size 9
Tops and bottoms in sizes 12 to 18 months and diapers size 3.
Financial donations to benefit the Raymond and Heather Baker family may be made through the secure Pay Pal link at First Baptist Church of Linesville’s website: fbclinesville.org.
Donations also may be made at participating Linesville area businesses.
Benefit dinner is Sunday
A benefit dinner for the Raymond and Heather Baker family is scheduled Sunday from noon to 6 p.m. at the Old Mill Cafe, 534 Penn St., Linesville.