By DON O'BRIEN and NANCY TERWELP
Herald-Whig Staff Writers
A Quincy family has members of the Quincy Police Department to thank for helping them escape from a second-floor apartment fire Wednesday night on the city's northwest side.
Christopher Elbus, Olivia Rife and their 9 1/2-month-old daughter, Ava Rife, were rescued from a bedroom on the upper floor of a residence at 1330 N. Eighth after a fire broke out around 11 p.m.
"We were laying in bed about to fall asleep," Elbus said. "It was kind of scary at first. The windows were the only way for us to get out."
Quincy fire officials reported that police Sgt. Bryan Dusch arrived at the residence before fire trucks had arrived and found the second-story back porch of the bungalow across the street from Washington Elementary School on fire.
Dusch said the porch was the only exit for the three residents in the upstairs apartment, and he could see through a window that they were still inside. He said he did not want the two adults to jump because of the distance, nor did he want them to attempt dropping the child.
Other police officers soon arrived on the scene and found a ladder in the backyard that Dusch used to first rescue the baby and then the adults. Other officers involved in the rescue were Sgt. Adam Yates, and Patrolmen Terry Hagan and Stephanie Yates, according to Assistant Fire Chief James Pioch.
The owner and occupants on the first floor, Dan and Kelly Dice, escaped unhurt. Dan Dice said the couple had gone to bed around 9:30. Their bedroom is right next to the stairway that leads to the upstairs apartment.
"I was woken up out of my sleep," Dan Dice said. "I kind of recognize the voice of the gal upstairs, and I'm hearing her yell, ‘Help. Help.' I threw back the curtain real quick, and I was wondering what the heck was going on. I'm hearing popping and cracking of fire and all that stuff, and then I see some glow of it on the steps. That's when I told my wife, ‘The house is on fire. Let's get out of here.' "
Elbus, 23, said he wasn't sure what was happening at first.
"It sounded like someone was going to break in on our front porch," he said.
Once they realized it was a fire, the couple went to the baby's room on the north side of the house. Olivia Rife, 21, got Ava, climbed out the window and waited for help to arrive.
"The cops got there right away," Elbus said. "It probably only took them five minutes to get there, but it seemed a lot longer."
Firefighters from Central Fire Station and the station near 12th and Locust soon brought the fire under control. Officials said the fire started upstairs in wicker waste basket with a plastic liner, in which an ashtray had been dumped in earlier in the evening.
Pioch said firefighters contained the blaze to the porch area. The upstairs apartment suffered smoke, heat and water damage, and a limited amount of smoke and water damage was found in the downstairs apartment.
Elbus said that he, Olivia Rife and Ava Rife were all doing fine Thursday morning. They had been living in the apartment since January.
"We did get pretty lucky," he said.