HAMILTON, Ohio - Melissa Lainhart is grateful her parents were out of town when their house caught fire Monday morning, but she's grieving over the death of a firefighter who gave his life to try to save them.
"I’m just so sorry for the firefighter's family. He’s definitely in our prayers," Lainhart said. "We thank you for the service."
Lainhart said her parents, Lester and Bertha Parker, were in Las Vegas celebrating their 45th wedding anniversary. They flew out of Cincinnati at 4:30 p.m. Sunday -- less than nine hours before the fire. When firefighters arrived at 1310 Pater Ave., about 1:10 a.m., someone told them the owners might be trapped inside, so they went in.
Firefighter Patrick Wolterman fell through the floor into the basement and was killed.
Lainhart said her aging parents were lucky – they might not have been able to escape the fire. Her mother slept in the rear bedroom. Her father has sleep apnea and takes oxygen through a machine.
"That’s the first thing I thought. I said, Thank God my mom wasn’t in there,'" she said.
Reached by telephone in Las Vegas, Lester Parker said he takes precautions every time he leaves town, unplugging most electronics and locking the doors.
"Refrigerator, freezer was left on, but there was nothing else," he said. "We keep everything turned down low anyway. I have no idea."
The home had been in his family for three generations, Parker said. He was trying to change his flight so he could return to Hamilton as soon as possible.
"We're just sitting here, can't do nothing," Parker said. "We're so worried about that fireman's family."
As it is, Lainhart worries about where her parents will live.
"I don't know what they're going to do," she said.
And she regrets the loss of the home where she and several generations of her family grew up.
"My dad was born and raised in the house. There’s so many memories in the house. My kids growing up. I remember family get-togethers in the house when I was a kid and my grandpa still lived there, and now it's nothing, just a shell," she said.
But Lainhart remembered another family's loss was so much greater.
"And then the firefighter who lost his life trying to make sure my mom and dad weren't in there. It's sad all the way around. It's sad," Lainhart said.