PLAIN TWP., Ohio -- Lucian Pilca hung from outside his second-floor bedroom window and dropped to the ground as his family home burned shortly after 4:30 a.m. Wednesday.
Lucian Pilca hung from outside his second-floor bedroom window and dropped to the ground as his family home burned shortly after 4:30 a.m. Wednesday. “I wasn’t going to die at 17,” said the GlenOak High School sophomore. He and his mother, Georgeta Pilca, escaped the blaze that ripped through their split-level home at 2531 38th St. NW, leaving about $250,000 in damage. The boy’s father, Liviu Pilca, said he had just left for work as a maintenance supervisor at Park Farms in Winesburg when his wife plugged in the coffeemaker in the kitchen and went to the garage to smoke a cigarette. May Have Started in Kitchen Firefighters believe the blaze started in the kitchen area. Fire Chief John A. Sabo said that when Georgeta Pilca opened the garage door, due to the construction of the house, the fire “just went through like a wind tunnel.” Georgeta Pilca screamed for her son to get out of the house. Lucian said he heard her yelling as he dropped from the window. When firefighters arrived, both already had escaped the burning structure. Liviu Pilca said that once his son was out of the house, he ran into the attached garage and removed his mother’s car and his own. “My son saved what could be saved and he saved himself, which is what counts,” he said, smiling with his arm around the young man. “That is a good man. I am proud. He’s the hero right here; he’s the one.” Lucian Pilca said he was awakened by the fire. “The smoke and the crackling of the wood woke me up,” he said. “I went into the hall and the smoke and the fire were coming up the stairs.” Firefighters said Lucian followed training from the safety classes he had taken since second grade, when he came to the United States: He climbed out the window, hung and then dropped, rather than jumped to the ground, said Inspector Troy Slabaugh. Liviu Pilca said he and his family had lived in the split-level home for seven years. “I work hard seven days a week, 12 hours a day, and I have everything I need almost paid off and then this,” he said, shaking his head and struggling to hold back tears as firefighters battled the blaze. He hugged his son and put his arm around his wife, who covered her face with her hands. Starting Over Again A native of Romania, Pilca and his family arrived in the United States in 1997 after winning a ticket in the Green Card Lottery. The lottery, called the Diversity Visa Program by the U.S. State Department, provides visas to allow people from all over the world to legally live and work in the United States. Slabaugh said the Pilca family was one of 20 families that won a lottery drawing from war-torn Romania in 1997. Pilca confirmed that he now is a U.S. citizen. In Romania, “I was a cop and I had a pretty good life there,” he said. “I just (wanted to) try to do better.” In the United States, he found himself looking for work. “I came to this country with (nothing but) a bag and nobody had anything for me,” he said. He was too old to meet Ohio age requirements that would allow him to retrain as a law enforcement officer. “I had to start everything over,” he said. With friends in Stark County, he found a home in Lake Cable, then an apartment on 44th Street NW in Canton and, a year later, the home he was buying on 38th Street. He also attended Stark State College of Technology and became certified in electrical work and hydraulics. “This is one of the worst (things) that can happen to you: Your house burns down,” Pilca said. “The work of a lifetime can go just like that. You can say it’s just a TV, a piece of furniture, a chair. But I know everything that is in my house. I work hard for everything. And in just the blink of an eye, you have nothing.” Loss of House and Home Pilca said he regretted that his son also lost belongings. When he’s not in school, the young man works as a custodian at Glenwood Middle School, and he had saved all summer to afford a pair of Air Jordan athletic shoes. Lucian bought the shoes a month ago and saved them for the first day of school, his father said. Lucian laid them alongside the clothes he planned to wear Wednesday, the first day of school. He never got the opportunity to wear the shoes because they burned in the fire. And he didn’t make it to school. Lucian seemed more concerned about his parents. In addition to dealing with the fire, his mother just returned Tuesday from Romania, where she went after the death of her father last week. “Like she didn’t have enough (to deal with),” Liviu Pilca said. He said he is insured. Sabo estimated the damage to the home at about $250,000 -- $190,000 for the structure and $60,000 for its contents. Firefighters on the scene did not yet know the origin and cause of the fire. North Canton firefighters helped Plain Township firefighters battle the blaze, which they had under control at 5:03 a.m., Deputy Chief Donald Snyder said. School buses that would have picked up other students in the neighborhood were detoured around the fire scene. Reach Canton Repository writer Lori Monsewicz at (330) 580-8309 or firstname.lastname@example.org.