Chris Klaiber paced back and forth outside of his fire-damaged Medina home Monday wondering what he and his wife were going to do next.
Their garage was destroyed, and their house sustained severe smoke and water damage and needs substantial work to make it livable again.
Just then, Jim Frame and Warren Benditz, of St. Matthews Lutheran Church, showed up to work on rehabilitating a vacant house across the street on North Broadway.
The two men offered Klaiber the vacant house free of rent for a period of up to six months on the spot.
“When you see a guy lying on the sidewalk waiting for the buzzards, you try to help him out,” Frame said metaphorically.
The program, which started in the 1970s, offers transitional housing to people who have fallen on hard times. Benditz said this was the first time they have offered housing in the case of an emergency.
“We discussed it with the pastor and he told us that it seemed like the neighborly thing to do,” he said.
Klaiber, 33, who works as a computer programmer, said he feels fortunate that he will be able to oversee the restoration of his home from across the street, which will take anywhere from four to six months.
“I did not know what the next step was going to be and then Jim and Warren were just like, ‘here is this key,’ “ he said. “I am just amazed. I couldn’t ask for anything more.”
Benditz said the Klaibers will be able to move in immediately.
But the Klaibers have more than just temporary housing to be thankful for.
Fire Chief Bob Painter said the Klaibers were able to escape to safety after stain-soaked rags spontaneously combusted and engulfed their garage and the back side of their house in flames.
The Klaibers were awakened by their neighbors, who phoned 911, and were able make it to safety shortly before the fire jumped from their garage onto their home.
“They called us, and we ran out and they let us stay with them until the fire got put out,” Klaiber said.
Painter said all four Medina Fire Department trucks responded to the 425 N. Broadway St. residence around 4:30 a.m.
“When the neighbors found it, the garage was fully involved and there was an extension fire up the back of the house,” he said. “Once fire gets into the eaves, it just follows the rafters up into the attic.”
Painter said Klaiber spent the weekend staining a deck and left rags in a bag where they caught fire spontaneously.
“Each type of stain is a little different, but usually you have to lay the rags out and dry them, then throw them out,” he said. “If you put them in a bag, they will actually heat up and hit an ignition point.”
Klaiber said he put several rags in a plastic bag on Friday after he finished staining his deck and did not know about the dangers of spontaneous combustion.
“I don’t call it pure ignorance. I just didn’t know,” he said. “I thought everything needed a spark, but I guess not.
“You always think about what could happen but never really think it will.”
Contact reporter Andrew Davis at (330) 421-5203 or firstname.lastname@example.org.