Urbana house catches fire

An Urbana house located on the 400 block of Oregon Street caught fire in the late afternoon Sunday.

The owners of the house, Leon and Judith McCulloh, were not home when the incident occurred. The first call was reported by a neighbor to the fire department at 3:47 p.m. Emergency responders arrived on the scene within four minutes, Urbana Fire Marshal Phil Edwards said. No civilians or firefighters were injured.

The blue house is still standing, and the original location and cause of the fire are still unknown.

Firefighters were still in the process of putting out the fire as of 5 p.m. Sunday, at which time Edwards classified the fire as Second Alarm. Edwards estimated 20-25 firefighters were on the scene.

“With the size of the house, the size of the fire when we got here, we immediately went to a second alarm,” Edwards said. “The First Alarm, you would get three engines, then a truck. When you go to a Second Alarm, then you get additional engines, you get an additional command officer and you get all these extra resources that come in. That’s the difference between the first and the second alarm, how big the fire is, how big the building is.”

Edwards said a proper estimation of the damage wouldn’t be known until the investigation was complete.

“When you think about fire damage, it’s not just what burned, but also what’s damaged by the smoke.”

Jeanne Gravy, 66, was watching TV and working on her computer when she saw the entire side of her next-door neighbors’ house engulfed in flames.

“I never use this term, and this time it was of prayer: ‘Oh, my God,’” Gravy said. “I’ve never seen a house like that before. … I called my daughter. She said pack a bag, get the cats in the crate and get ready to vacate.”

Another one of the McCulloh’s neighbors, Anne Casey, said the house, which was known around the neighborhood for its aesthetics, had been recently remodeled.

“I know them because they have the most beautiful garden in the neighborhood,” said Casey, 57. “Everybody goes over there all the time and tells them how beautiful it is.”

A shed located behind a residence across the street from the fire also caught fire, but it was extinguished earlier in the afternoon.

“The houses are pretty close here, so there’s a little bit of a challenge there. As far as what’s happening inside, I don’t know what challenge they have inside the house.”

Leon McCulloh is a retired math professor from the University.