Unaccounted occupant makes for anxious wait for family (Staff photo by Mark Campbell)
Unaccounted occupant makes for anxious wait for family (Staff photo by Mark Campbell)

By MARK CAMPBELL

A Jefferson County family waited anxiously for about two hours Tuesday as firefighters battled a blaze that completely destroyed the home of a family member who at the time was missing and thought to maybe still be in the structure.

In the end, Bryan Rice, 52, of Lexington, returned to his family safely just about the time firefighters from numerous departments extinguished the blaze and were beginning to search the charred rubble for a possible body.

Rice had been visiting a friend in nearby Blotcher and was unaware that his home was on fire or that he was unaccounted for. Numerous calls to his cellphone went straight to voicemail and a check with several of his friends failed to locate him, leaving family members and firefighters to fear the worst until he finally returned home.

All that made for some tense waiting for step-father Roy Suter, who looked on as firefighters worked to extinguish a blaze that was already well out of control by the time they arrived at the scene located just off SR 3 near the intersection of SR 256.

Suter said Rice, on disability since a work-related injury several years ago, normally sleeps late so family members could only hope that he was not still in the home. When he could not be located by phone or friend it was hard not to consider that he might had perished in the blaze.

“We found him. He came home,” said Suter, who owns the house. “We’re really relieved. You can always build another house.”

According to Deputy Fire Chief Michael Hazelwood, by the time the first pumper truck arrived, the structure was fully engulfed. By the time hoses could be run and water flowing the building was beginning to collapse. That left firefighters with no option for entering the structure for a search or rescue, especially considering that the structure had been built around a previously existing mobile home.

Considering the suspected severity of the fire, a state fire marshal was dispatched to the scene and had already arrived and was interviewing witnesses by the time Rice returned home at about 1:45 p.m., some two hours after the blaze was reported.

Deputy Volunteer Fire Department headed up the response with assistance by firefighters from Hanover, Kent, Johnson Township, Madison Township, New Washington and Scottsburg at the scene. Water trucks from three of those departments also responded making sure the hoses never ran dry during the battle.