Fire Spreads Through Home of Race-Car Driver

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Race car driver Rocky Moran, who a few months ago was beaten by teen-agers in his neighborhood, suffered another misfortune when fire spread through his home, authorities said Wednesday.

The source of the fire Tuesday night was apparently a propane barbecue attached to the house, which had been used an hour earlier. It spread to the second, third and fourth floors, causing the fourth-floor ceiling to collapse and injure four firefighters.

"They couldn't believe this was happening," said Chris Eckert, 13, a family friend who lives down the street.

In November, Moran suffered a dislocated shoulder after a mob of about 50 teen-agers threw rocks at him, his wife and a daughter as they were coming home from trick-or-treating, sheriff's deputies said. Another man who happened to drive up behind the Morans was injured in the same attack, according to authorities. Four to five juveniles were later arrested.

Tuesday's fire began at 8:45 p.m. and spread quickly through the Morans' 5,000-square-foot custom home.

Four dozen firefighters arrived to find billowing smoke and flames. It took more than an hour to control the blaze, partly because firefighters had to slice through solid-wood walls and around stones to get to it, Fire Capt. Dan Young said.

"That fire really beat us up," Young said. "It was a lot of work to cut through the walls. It was a specially built house. It was not your typical drywall we're talking about here."

Another holdup was due to Moran calling the local Fire Department instead of 911, Young said. The Indianapolis 500 racer was told to hang up and call 911. But by the time he tried, his phone line had gone dead, Young said.

"His daughters had to run to a neighbor's house to call," he said. "They were very lucky; what if the neighbors weren't there?"

About 45 minutes into the fire, the fourth-floor ceiling collapsed. Two firefighters suffered first- and second-degree burns and two others suffered "bruises and bumps," Young said.

Neighbors who saw the fire helped the family rescue valuables, including antiques, trophies and Moran's racing gear, said Eckert, who is a classmate of Moran's 13-year-old daughter, Kelly.

"His son races go-carts and was bringing out his trophies," Eckert said. "His room, which was in the basement, was perfect, though. Nothing was wrong with it."

The fire caused $325,000 in damage. Fire investigators have not determined how the blaze started, but Young cautioned that "there's nothing suspicious" about the fire.

The Morans are staying with relatives while the house is repaired, Young said.

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