A Brown Township family escaped a fire late May 29 after a father and son riding motorcycles in the area spotted the flames and helped evacuate seven people from the Davis Road residence.
Robert Woodland Sr. and his son, Robert Woodland Jr., were on a late-night motorcycle ride on Patterson Road when they saw the fire at the Davis Road home just east of Walker Road at 11:55 p.m. May 29, Norwich Township fire Chief Jeff Warren said.
The elder Woodland said he and his son, a 2013 graduate of Bradley High School and Tolles Career and Technical Center, don't usually ride late at night.
"But everything happens for a reason," he said.
Woodland said he was involved in an accident earlier the same day.
"Someone sideswiped me (and) at the end of the day I said to my son, 'You know, let's go for a ride,' " Woodland said.
Woodland, 53, hopped on his Honda and he and his 19-year-old son left their west Columbus home. They took a series of back roads that led them to the intersection of Patterson and Walker roads.
"My son said, 'Hey, dad, that guy has his bonfire too close to the house,' " Woodland said.
But the elder Woodland, who spent 15 years as a volunteer firefighter for the Clinton Township Fire Department, knew the blaze was no bonfire.
The father and son rode the short distance northwest on Walker Road to Davis Road to reach the home, where they saw the attached garage was on fire.
Two men, a woman and three children, ages 10, 3 and 4 months, were inside the home, Warren said.
A seventh person, the father of the homeowner, also was at the scene, but investigators are still determining when he arrived, Warren said.
The attached garage was burning but the fire had not reached the home when the Woodlands began pounding on doors and windows.
Warren said the occupants initially were frightened but soon realized an emergency was at hand.
"My son got the 4-month-old out and the other two kids then went into the basement and helped get out a man there," Woodland said. "I went upstairs and got two other adults out of the house."
Everyone in the home was safely accounted for as firefighters from Norwich, Pleasant, Prairie and Washington townships arrived at the scene.
By the time the blaze was put it out, it had destroyed the garage and much of the home.
The fire is believed to be accidental, Warren said June 3.
The origin remains under investigation but appears to be linked to gasoline stored in the garage, Warren said.
Damage is estimated at $50,000 and it has not yet been determined whether the residence will be repaired or rebuilt, Warren said.
Upon discovering one of the children lost presents for a fourth birthday to be celebrated May 31, the Woodlands arranged a party for the boy.
Woodland said about 30 motorcycle riders from two clubs hosted a party and provided gifts to replace those lost in the fire.
"I think he had a great time," said Woodland, adding one of the gifts was a riding vest.