Maumee Football Senior Hailed As Hero After Actions During Heatherdowns Fire

BY JEREMY SCHNEIDER | MIRROR SPORTS — Chance Ruelle was looking to grab some lunch after lifting weights with the Maumee High School football team, so he headed over to Yang’s Gourmet House on Heatherdowns Boulevard.

Instead of leaving with fried rice or sweet and sour chicken, though, Ruelle eventually went home with people calling him a hero.

A fire that started in the South Toledo Title Office and swept through the shopping center on June 22, which includes Yang’s, could have been much more devastating if not for Ruelle’s quick actions. He called 911 and rushed into neighboring businesses, alerting staff and customers of the danger.

Ruelle, a senior football player for Maumee, was parked outside Yang’s when he heard a woman yell, “Is that a fire?” While other people grabbed their cell phones to take videos, Ruelle dialed 911 instead.

“My first instinct was to call 911 and get people out,” he said. “It may sound silly, but I’ve run through a scenario like this in my head many times, so I guess I just had an idea of what I should do.”

While talking to 911 dispatchers, Ruelle ran into Yang’s and Sebastiano’s Italiano restaurants to get people out.

“After that, I ran around and made sure that everything was safe and out of the building,” Ruelle said. “After the fire department was there, I was walking around making sure everyone was OK and answering questions they asked me.

“I definitely did not expect that to happen that day, and if I did, I would be crazy.”

Lucas County Clerk of Courts J. Bernie Quilter said the title office is closed indefinitely and that the fire resulted in a total loss to the office.

Last Tuesday, Quilter came to Maumee to recognize Ruelle’s heroic efforts. In a press release, Quilter said Ruelle should be recognized for “going above and beyond the call of duty.”

“This young man had the presence to spring into action, notify the authorities of the fire and warn our employees to vacate the office immediately,” Quilter said in a press release.

“In my book, he is a hero and prevented any of our employees from being seriously hurt or worse.”

Panthers coach Evan Karchner said Ruelle, who is in his first year playing football, is a hard worker who represents the program the way it should be. When Ruelle’s teammates heard about his actions, Karchner said they were “shocked and also proud.”

“Chance is new to our team and he is also a fairly quiet kid. I think this recognition gave him some confidence and some positive feedback from his teammates,” Karchner said. 

“What he did was a huge deal that a lot of kids wouldn’t have done. I know we were all pretty happy for him and the recognition he received.”

According to Maumee athletic director Cam Coutcher, Ruelle’s actions make people proud to be Maumee community members.

“It’s not easy to step up and do the right thing; it can be scary and not everyone is built for it,” Coutcher said.

“Heroes come in all shapes, sizes and forms. Chase is a hero. He made a choice to help people in need.

“I would like this situation to remind others that they are capable of doing what is right and to look for ways to help others. If we make it a goal to positively impact others, we can all be heroes, and this community will continue to be an amazing place to live.”

For his part, Ruelle stopped short of agreeing and calling himself a hero, choosing to put the title on others.

“It feels nice, but I don’t feel like I deserve all of this attention,” he said. “The real heroes are the men and women who stopped the fire from spreading and injuring other people or worse.

“I hope that everyone reading this stays ready for anything. Your life and many others’ can change in a matter of seconds.

“And to everyone reading this, when you see a first responder, tell them thank you for risking their lives every day for us.”

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