Historic tragedy

MUNCY – After the September 2011 Flood extensively damaged Sherry Bradley’s property at 172 Water St., the Muncy area business woman spent the next 17 months renovating the home, which dates back to the mid-1800s.

However, all of Bradley’s work went up in flames early Wednesday morning when a multiple-alarm fire destroyed the historical property.

“First a flood and then a fire; how much can one endure,” Muncy Area Fire Chief Scott Delany said during a brief interview after firefighters returned to the company’s Main Street firehouse shortly early Wednesday afternoon.

The cause of the fire, which was discovered about 5:30 a.m., was a furnace in the basement that malfunctioned, Delany said, adding that Cpl. Nicholas A. Loffredo, a state police fire marshal, determined the cause after responding to the scene.

“There were heavy flames shooting from a second-floor window when firefighters arrived on the scene,” Delany said.

Bone-chilling temperatures that hovered around zero made the firefighters’ efforts to put out the fire all the more difficult.

“The closest fire hydrant to the building was frozen solid so we had to stretch an additional 400 yards of hose to another hydrant that was working,” Delany said.

The furnace that malfunction was directly “under a stairwell, which acted just like a chimney, allowing the fire to rapidly spread to the upper floors,” Delany said.

Investigators suspect that the fire had been burning “for a considerable amount of time before it was discovered. Structural beams in the basement were charred deeply,” Delany said.

The property has been vacant since at least September 2011 when a flood left two to three feet of water on the first floor, Delany said. It was believed that Bradley lived in the Muncy area, but her address was not known.

With the frigid conditions, water from the hoses froze almost immediately, creating very slippery conditions for the firefighters.

“Several slipped and fell, but fortunately no one was injured,” Delany said.

At the back of the building is an addition, which is a separate apartment, Delany said.

Firefighters fought much of the fire by entering the apartment and driving the flames away from that part of the building, he said.

“I would like to express a big thank you to Brelsford Motors (on Main Street) that brought a school bus to the scene,” Delany said.

The bus provided cold firefighters a place to take breaks and get warm.

Damage was $200,000 to the structure and about $5,000 in contents.

There was very few possessions in the property, Delany said. Bradley has insurance to cover the loss, he said.

The historical part of the building was declared a total loss, Delaney said.

In addition to Muncy Area, volunteer firefighters from Pennsdale, Picture Rocks, Montgomery and Clinton Township fought the fire. Firefighters from Montoursville manned a truck at the Pennsdale’s firehouse. Hughesville firefighters handled two other emergency calls in Muncy Creek Township during the blaze.