15-year-old Hillsboro High School freshman dies in house fire Tuesday morning

HILLSBORO, Ohio – Would more Hillsboro firefighters responding to a house fire Tuesday morning have changed its deadly outcome?

Hillsboro firefighter Ryan Passett raised similar concerns in November when the city decided to cut its fire department’s staff.

Hazel Morris, a freshman at Hillsboro High School, died Tuesday when her family home caught fire. Her younger brother, Alex, escaped the blaze to call 911.

Hazel’s parents, Kevin and Stacy, received the call while at work that their daughter died at about 6 a.m.

By the time Hillsboro’s two on-duty firefighters responded to the scene, the heat was so intense they were unable to enter the house at 302 Bigelow Street.

In November, Passett wrote an op-ed piece in The Highland Community Press that blasted city’s cuts to his department, which he believed would impede his ability to respond to emergencies.

Those cuts limited crews to two firefighters per shift.

“Cuts of this nature will increase firefighter’s response times and decrease their ability to perform basic firefighting tasks,” Passet wrote.

9 On Your Side’s Jason Law spoke to Hillsboro Safety Director Todd Wilkins, who established the timeline of Hillsboro’s response to the fire.

Wilkins said it took Hillsboro about five minutes between the time the call was received and when crews showed up on scene.

The call came into dispatch at 5:37 a.m. and the fire department was notified at 5:38 a.m.

About the same time, Hillsboro officer Charles Milligan arrived at the house, but could not get inside due to the heat.

When Hillsboro’s two firefighters arrived on the scene at 5:42 a.m., they were also unable to enter the building. At 5:46, the Pain Creek Township fire department arrived to assist in battling the fire, along with volunteers.

Wilkins added the state fire marshal was on scene investigating the situation.

The National Fire Data Center said the average response time to fires is less than 5 minutes nationwide.


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