Fire damages two homes
Mary Mattingly

Firefighters in Ripley County and surrounding areas responded to several fires in a 48-hour span. Not only did they have to battle fire but do so during sub-zero temperatures. Fortunately, no one was hurt, but families were displaced. One of the structure fires was deemed a total loss.

On Tuesday morning at 3:01 firefighters were called to the Regina Ritchie residence at 400S Co. Rd. 800W for a report of a house fire. Departments responding to the scene were Holton VFD, Versailles Fire Rescue, Osgood VFD, Ripley County Red Cross, and Rescue 69. The Napoleon VFD was also en route with their tanker but were disregarded before they arrived on scene.

Holton fire

Fire damaged a house in Holton early Tuesday morning.


According to Versailles Fire Chief Ben Sieverding, the temperature at the time was -9 with a sub-zero wind chill. The frigid cold air and wind hindered the firefighters' efforts in battling the blaze. “One Holton fire truck slid off the roadway and was not available for fighting the fire. The truck sliding off the roadway hindered firefighters from gaining access to the site and additional hose lines needed to be deployed to reach the fire,” he said. He also said firefighters battled frozen hydrants, frozen valves, frozen nozzles, and hoses.

The severe cold also presented a danger to the firefighters themselves. Due to the cold conditions firefighters had to be rotated and allowed time to thaw and warm up. The firefighters safety in these conditions had to be considered and their time exposed to the elements were a constant consideration.

Sieverding said water supply was a major problem. The fire hydrant at the Holton Fire Station was frozen and could not provide water for the tankers. Firefighters then began transporting water from the fire hydrant at the Holton water tower and during those operations the fire hydrant at the water tower froze up. The water tankers themselves were also experiencing difficulties with the valves utilized for filling and then dumping the water freezing up as well.

The family was put up in a motel by the American Red Cross. Most of their belongings were destroyed by either smoke or water damage. Those living there included two adults, Regina Ritchie and Paula Watson, and their children, Abbie and Joe Watson and Derek Ritchie, all students at South Ripley High School. The school administrators have been in contact with them to check on their needs, but said they did have insurance.

The cause of the fire is currently under investigation.

Another fire occurred Monday evening in Sunman. The station got the call around 4:05 p.m, and within five minutes they were on the scene at 324 Vine Street to the Kevin Eller residence. The tenants smelled smoke, and firefighters accessed the attic from the back of the house. Two crawled through and found the source, according to Sunman Fire Chief Bill Craig. “In the meantime, we used the thermal image camera and from the bedroom saw it was above in the ceiling. The ceiling had started to discolor, so we hit it with water.” He was proud of his crew. “It was a very good save by these guys with minimal damage. Had the family not smelled it, in another 15 minutes, we would have a different story.” The cause was electrical, and it was extinguished within 20 minutes.

The Red Cross assisted the family with shelter overnight. Craig said 24 firefighters responded, and he suspected they had a good number because they understood the weather challenges on fire crews. While there, they had three more tones, one being a carbon monoxide report at Whitetail Run subdivision and a fire alarm at E. CR 1100 North, near St. Nicholas Church. Morris and Batesville departments were on standby. “With the weather being what it was, we wanted to have enough people available because they tire and wear out quicker. It’s hard to move in the cold. But our firefigthers are well trained. And with the two crawling through the attic. I was proud of all of them.” He also mentioned a barn fire on Friday evening in Dearborn County that they responded to, along with five other departments. The smoke could be seen from the Sunman station, he said, and again frigid temperatures became their enemy.

Switzerland County
Switzerland County also had a structure fire Tuesday morning, deemed a total loss.

Dearborn County
Also, Tuesday around 4 p.m. a fire was reported at a trailer in the Moores Hill area. The trailer was destroyed, and Red Cross was also called to help the family. In Lawrenceburg, two workers and two firefighters were injured at a fire at MGP Distillery Monday.


Schools apply for waiver to make up two missed days
Sandy Day Howard

Area schools have been offered waivers from the Indiana Department of Education that would exempt them from being required to make up this week’s missed days.

Nearly every school in the area was closed due to the arctic like weather on Monday and Tuesday. Under normal circumstances, students would have to make up the days. The waivers, which must be requested by area superintendents, would dismiss schools for January 6 and 7 because of the extreme cold/blizzard conditions. If granted, the waiver would mean students and staff would not be required to make up the two missed days.

According to South Ripley Community Schools Superintendent Rob Moorhead, SR’s calendar, like most other area schools’ schedules, previously had only a couple of days built in to be used in the case of inclement weather. These days were typically President’s Day and Martin Luther King’s birthday. If additional days had to be made up, they were added to the end of the school year. Now that SR adheres to a balanced calendar, however, they have built in not only these two days, but also have an entire week of provisional spring break days that can be used, if needed. As with most schools, Good Friday has also been set aside as a makeup day, should all the other days be exhausted.

Since South Ripley had two days out due to weather during the first semester this school year, the two holidays will be used to compensate for those days. Spring break is scheduled for March 17-28. The first five days, March 17-21, are provisional, meaning they are contingent upon the school’s prerogative to use these as makeup days if necessary. The provisional days, if used, are considered as every other student day, meaning students are expected to attend. The second spring break week, March 24-28, would not be affected.

“I think this is one of the big advantages of the balanced calendar,” said Moorhead, “We now have eight days built in to use before we would have to add days on at the end of the school year.”

Superintendent Dr. Leanna Phillippe of Jac-Cen-Del Schools said JCD has the same days outlined for snow makeup days as South Ripley. “We plan to apply for the waiver; however, we will be meeting with the discussion team (union) and principals to determine if these days will impact our ability to meet the state standards.  We will be making a recommendation to the board based on our findings.  Any instruction time lost is a concern. Can we provide the instruction in a different manner that will allow for students to master the necessary skills is the first and foremost concern?  The balanced calendar does allow for some flexibility, but we still have the problem with parents making vacation travel on the first week of spring break.  I am concerned about the students being in attendance if we make the days up the first week of spring break.  Parents need to remember the first week of spring break is for makeup days.”

Milan Superintendent Paul Ketcham said this about the waiver,” The Indiana DOE did indeed offer a waiver for schools who missed Monday, January 6 and Tuesday, January 7th. Currently, Milan has missed four days due to inclement weather. At this time I will consult with our school board on how and when we may apply for and use those two days. Once I have consulted with the board and we have discussed all pertinent facts, we’ll make the best decision for our students.” Milan Schools have the same dates scheduled for spring break as South Ripley and Jac-Cen-Del, with the first week being provisional.

Individual school boards plan and approve their school’s calendar each year, keeping in mind that they must build in the required number of instructional days. The three schools also attempt to collaborate with Southeastern Career Center when laying out their annual agendas. Milan, Jac-Cen-Del, and South Ripley each have between 50 and 80 students who attend both their home school and the career center. Although it’s not possible to coordinate all of their calendars, the four schools do take SCC students’ schedules into consideration when developing their year ahead.

It’s important to note that area school boards and administrators are not responsible for planning the number of days their students must be in session. The State of Indiana’s Department of Education mandates student instructional hours in addition to many other requirements public schools must adhere to. Indiana’s DOE currently requires students to attend school for 180 days. There are also requirements for class time, testing and graduation.



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