9 homeless after fire in Williamsport

Kim Croucher and her boyfriend, James Drummond Jr., were sound asleep about 5:20 a.m. when they suddenly heard banging on their front door.

“It was the cops. They were pounding on the door and yelling, ‘Get out! Get out! There is a fire,’ ” Croucher said shortly after the couple, along with their two children ages 4 and 2 – and an overnight guest, Nakita Valencia, were routed from the double home on Seventh Avenue.

When city firefighters arrived, the entire back of 687-689 Seventh Ave. was engulfed in flames, fire Platoon Chief Russ Clemons said.

Croucher’s family lived on the 689 side while the 687 side was occupied by Mary Townsend, her boyfriend, Raymond Wettlaufer, their two children – ages 6 and 3 – and Wettlaufer’s brother, Shaun, who had recently moved in.

Both families made it out safely, a fire official said.

It was believed that Shaun Wettlaufer, who was sleeping in the basement, was awakened by the fire and alerted others in the house.

Fire officials said smoke alarms in the house were going off.

Clemons said firefighters advanced hoses first through the front door and then the back door after first knocking down much of the fire, which investigators said appeared to have started at the rear on the 687 side.

Volunteer firefighters from Old Lycoming Township, South Williamsport and Montoursville also responded to the two-alarm blaze, which took about 40 minutes to bring under control.

The local chapter of the American Red Cross were offering emergency assistance to the two displaced families, neither of whom had renter’s insurance. The property is owned by Joan Eskra, of Round Hill Road, who has fire insurance, officials said.

Fire officials, including a city police detective, were expected to return to the scene this morning to continue their investigation into the cause of the fire. A final damage estimate has yet to be determined.