Fire displaces family of 11 in Wellsboro

WELLSBORO – A family of 11 is homeless after a fire sparked in their 4 Antrim St. home around 1:15 a.m. July 4.

Fire Chief Lonnie Campbell said the home, owned by Edward Whitten Sr. and Jacqueline Whitten, was occupied by 11 people – five adults and six children – all related in some way to each other.

“One of the residents woke up due to excessive heat and heavy smoke on the second floor,” Campbell said, adding that one smoke detector was in the home but it had no battery.

The fact that there were no injuries and all 11 people were able to exit the home safely was “pretty miraculous, given the early morning time of the fire and the lack of working smoke detectors,” Campbell said.

“They were pretty fortunate,” he added.

Campbell said when firefighters arrived on scene, there was “smoke coming from all levels including the eaves of the roof.”

There was “moderate fire and heat and water damage in the basement, as the fire was contained to the basement area, but there was extensive damage to the utilities as well. So we had to disconnect the electricity and gas,” he said.

A melted PVC water pipe in the basement “assisted us at first,” Campbell said.

Campbell said the fire was “accidental in nature but undetermined.”

“We weren’t able to pinpoint a cause unfortunately. Some weed eaters and gas cans were in the area (where the fire started), near the basement door, but we weren’t able to determine what may have sparked the fire,” he said.

According to Campbell, the house sustained about $20,000 to 30,000 damage in the basement, but the belongings in the home should be salvageable, he said.

The family is being assisted by the American Red Cross.