30th anniversary of Thanksgiving house fires in McDonald - WFMJ.com News weather sports for Youngstown-Warren Ohio

30th anniversary of Thanksgiving house fires in McDonald

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For some living in the village of McDonald - Thanksgiving brings a chilling reminder of what could have been a very deadly day. 

McDonald native and retired firefighter Rich Harvey says he's thankful because of the lives that were spared 30 years ago. 

Thanksgiving day 1986, house fires started popping up all over the village of McDonald.

Harvey was on the first truck sent out and remembers like it was yesterday. 

"As I was running the truck, people come running towards me and they're screaming, my house is on fire, my house is on fire and there's gas pouring out of the houses everywhere," said Harvey.

A gas line regulator malfunctioned, surging the gas pressure into homes. 

"It made the pilot lights on people's appliances and stoves like flamethrowers and the gas smell and the hissing, such a scary sound when you hear hissing coming out of people's houses," he said.

Firefighters from several surrounding communities were called in to help. 50 houses and one business were damaged. 

When the smoke cleared, no one was injured or killed. 

"To have that many house fires and nobody got, no serious injuries, no deaths, it was amazing," said Harvey.

Harvey says two things helped contribute to saving lives that day. The weather - it was nice so furnaces weren't running and the action taken by people in the community

"The neighbors and the people were so great in this incident. They got together and helped each other out, went door to door, made sure everybody was OK, shutting the gasses off, opening the churches up," said Harvey.

It's because of those efforts and the incredible outcome that day, that Harvey and others pause every Thanksgiving to give thanks.

"It's a good memory for us, you know, tragedies happen but it just became a good memory for us because we lost things, we didn't lose people," he said.

For the past 30 years, every Thanksgiving at noon, Harvey, his wife Kate and brother in law, who also fought those fires, say a special prayer to give thanks for that positive outcome.

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