Newspaper carrier alerts family to fire

“It was perfect timing right there.”

That’s how Zeb Petrof, a Times Observer newspaper carrier, summed up his part in potentially saving a Starbrick family’s home from extensive damage, or worse, as a result of an early morning house fire on Monday.

Petrof said he was driving down Greene Road and “looked over off to the right and the whole porch was lit on fire.”

The fire, on the porch of Curtis Upton’s residence, broke out sometime around 3 a.m.

Upton, as well as his fiancee, two-year-old daughter and seven-year-old son, were all asleep in the residence.

Petrof pounded on the door to wake Upton, who was sleeping on the couch just feet away from the flame.

After calling 911 and getting everyone out of the house, Petrof and Upton worked to bring water from the sink in an attempt to get the fire under control.

“That fire was just getting ready to take off,” Petrof said. “(It was) getting ready to turn into a blaze.”

Timing was everything, Petrof said, explaining that he was actually 15 to 20 minutes late picking up his bundle of papers to deliver early Monday morning.

Upton praised Petrof’s response.

“I’m pretty thankful. He basically saved my house and my family,” Upton said. “He spotted the fire before any smoke alarms went off.”

Upton said, “We tried to douse the fire with water. I showed him where the faucet was. I’m just so grateful (for) his quick actions and the firefighters (that) saved us.”

Asked how the fire started, Upton said there was a flower pot with a dried rootball with an ashtray nearby. He believes the fire must have smoldered for six to eight hours, starting as the family had been enjoying the beautiful weather Sunday evening out on the porch.

“The firefighters were surprised there was so little damage, and no internal damage,” said Upton. “They were here for probably a couple of hours, from about 3:30 to 5 (a.m.) or so.”

As for Petrof, once the situation was under control, he gave Upton his paper and finished the route. He described the experience as “a little bit of excitement.”