Fires near Muncy, in Hepburnville
A Muncy police officer and a neighbor who is a volunteer firefighter rescued a disabled man from his burning home on John Brady Drive just outside the borough early Wednesday morning.
The rescue occurred hours after a Hepburn Township family of five escaped their burning house on Crescent Hill Road after being awakened by smoke alarms, according to fire officials.
These two overnight fires are the latest in a rash of residential blazes that have hit the region this month.
Gary Davis, believed to be in his 40s, was rescued by Muncy Patrolman Anthony Oeler and neighbor Mark Schneider about 4:30 a.m., within minutes after his mother, Shirley Davis, discovered a fire on the second-floor of the Muncy Creek Township home they share.
“Shirley called me and said her house was on fire and filling up with smoke, so I ran right over,” Schneider, a volunteer firefighter for nearly 30 years, said.
He grabbed a fire extinguisher that was on the first floor of the Davis home and tried to reach the fire by climbing a set of steps, but he was driven back by dense smoke.
Both Davis and his mother were on the first floor, where they sleep, he said.
“I called 911, reported the fire and told them I had a disabled individual in the house that I couldn’t get out on my own,” said Schneider, a custodial department supervisor for the Muncy Area School District.
As the call was being put out over the fire radio, Oeler, who was on routine patrol in the borough, rushed to the scene after hearing that there was someone trapped inside the structure.
“The first floor was starting to fill up with smoke,” Schneider, a former Muncy firefighter and a Pennsdale volunteer firefighter for nearly 10 years, said.
Once Oeler reached the scene, Schneider knew he and the officer had to move very quickly to get Davis out.
“We lifted the man out of bed and put him in his wheelchair. We then pushed him right of house,” Oeler said.
Davis’ mother was reluctant at first to leave the house, because she wanted to save her cats, Oeler said.
Muncy Area Fire Chief Scott Delany said firefighters recovered all four of Davis’ cats, which were located on the first floor.
Most of the fire was confined to the second floor, and firefighters covered many of the family’s possessions with salvage tarps.
Delany said most of the fire was extinguished within 15 minutes. Some smoke got into the other half of duplex, which is occurred by John Dewald, who owns the property.
Neither Davis nor Dewald had any fire insurance.
In addition to Muncy Area, firefighters from Pennsdale, Hughesville and Picture Rocks responded to the fire.
The fire has been ruled accidental, Delany said. It started in a second-floor closet where clothing left on a heat pipe ignited, he said. Structural damage was set at $35,000 while damage to contents was another $10,000, he added.
The local chapter of the American Red Cross was providing emergency assistance to Davis and his mother, both of whom are expected to be displaced for several months.
Another family displaced was Adam and Becky Corter and their three children who were routed from their home at 954 Crescent Hill Road about 11:40 p.m. Tuesday.
“Smoke alarms paid off again and saved lives,” Hepburn Township Fire Chief Jeff Tempesco said, adding that the couple was awakened by smoke alarms that were activated by a fire that originated in the basement of the two-and-half story brick home, which is at least 100 years old.
Corter, who owns Performance Towing and Auto Body on Lycoming Creek Road, along with his wife and their two daughters and son, already were out of the house when firefighters arrived on the scene, Tempesco said.
The entire back of the house was engulfed in flames, Tempesco said.
Firefighters made an initial interior attack, but had to pull out for a short period of time “after the first and second-floor started to give way,” Tempesco said.
Firefighters managed to re-enter the property through the front door and push the fire out, Tempesco said. While much of the fire was knocked down in 20 minutes, volunteers were on the scene dousing hot spots until after 2 a.m.
“They lost everything, but the clothes on their backs,” Tempesco said of the Corter family, which investigators said was in the process of buying the home from Robert “Bobbie” Maguire, of Clinton County.
Joseph Hope, who heads the joint Old Lycoming-Hepburn Township fire investigation unit, ruled the fire started in the basement and was electrical in nature. Damage was estimated at $250,000.
The Hepburn Township Volunteer Fire Co. is leading the effort to provide emergency assistance to the family. The couple’s daughters are ages 11 and 13, and their son is 5.
Anyone wishing to donate toys, clothing or other necessities can call the firehouse at 494-0411 or email the station at Hepburnfire.com, Tempesco said.