INDIAN HILL, Ohio - Groups of firefighters spent overnight Saturday putting out hotspots in the smoldering rubble of a $4 million house as Ohio arson investigators started sifting through the wreckage to determine cause.
"Please pray for my family, you will soon see on the news that our home has burned down and there is nothing left of our possessions,” wrote Chase Decker, 20, the son of the home’s owner, Maria and J.R. Decker, as originally reported by RTV6's sister station WCPO in Cincinnati.
On Friday afternoon, over 80 firefighters were called to the 9600 block of Cunningham Road in Indian Hill, just a few miles from Cincinnati, to try to put out the blaze that swallowed the 10,000 square-foot estate in 30 feet high flames and belched up black smoke that could be seen from as far away as Kenwood and Loveland.
PHOTOS: Scene of Indian Hill fire
Besides the initial spark that started the blaze, miscommunication between dispatch and first responders, a lack of ample water on site, where the house sat and no sprinkler system helped to fan flames.
"The one lesson is if you're building a house and you can ... if you want to sprinkle it ... that kind of puts a firefighter there all the time to put water on the fire, but this house was not sprinkled so we didn't have that advantage," explained Capt. Clarence Smith of the Maderia-Indian Hill Fire District.
The fire district also lacked the advantage of public fire hydrants and close proximity to the road. The Decker’s property did have a private hydrant installed, but the device’s water reservoir was quickly depleted.
"I at first thought the woods were on fire behind my house," said Paula Maxwell, who lived behind the house.
Paula’s husband, Paul, was just grateful it was not a windy day.
"It borders the woods you can see, and luckily it's not a windy day," he said. "It's wet so we're hoping that it will be contained."
The dampness might have protected neighbors, but the lack of water fighting the fire only hampered crews as they watched the flames spread while waiting for a tanker relay system to arrive.
Multiple fire departments were called in deliver loads of water by truck. Crews would unload that water into catch basins, and then use engines to pump the water down the driveway - a quarter-mile to the house.
As of Saturday morning, investigators were unsure when they’d determine a cause for the fire, but there was some small blessing among the ruin.
“Thankfully everyone is safe including our dogs....” wrote Chase.
WCPO reporters Bryce Anslinger and Brendan Keefe contributed to this report.