A family of three was left homeless Sunday afternoon after the homeowner accidentally set fire to his house as he was stripping paint with an electrical heat gun in the city's Vallamont neighborhood, city fire officials said.
Geoffrey Ayers was not injured in the accidental fire, which broke out at 750 Belmont Ave. about 4 p.m. His wife, Jennifer, and the couple's elementary school-age son were not home at the time, fire officials said.
It took city and volunteer firefighters about 40 minutes to bring the two-alarm blaze under control.
It was the third house fire in the Williamsport area in four days.
City Fire Chief C. Dean Heinbach said Ayers was stripping paint just above the front door with a heat source, and the next thing he knew, some roof material ignited.
Ayers called 911.
JOHN NEVILL JR./Sun-Gazette Correspondent
Firefighters battle flames on the roof of 750 Belmont Ave. on Sunday.
CRAIG S. McKIBBEN JR./Sun-Gazette
Williamsport Bureau of Fire Platoon Chief Eric Smith, left, communicates with another firefighter who emerged from a structure fire on Belmont Avenue Sunday afternoon.
When city fire Platoon Chief Eric Smith arrived on the scene, heavy smoke was coming from the front of the structure. He immediately called for a second alarm, which brought additional manpower and equipment from Old Lycoming Township, Loyalsock Township, South Williamsport and Montoursville.
As one group of firefighters began pouring water on the fire, another started cutting holes in the roof so they could reach the flames that were in concealed spaces.
"It was very labor intensive. There was a lot of work involved in opening the roof. A lot of fire was hidden in a space below the roof," Heinbach said.
Once a section above the doorway caught fire, hidden flames spread "the whole way through to the peak of the roof," Heinbach explained.
Ayers' wife and son, who were out shopping, soon arrived on the scene. Numerous neighbors offered the family emotional support as did many friends, including their pastor, who responded.
Heinbach estimated damage in excess of $100,000. He said the family, which carried fire insurance, was staying with relatives.
Additional volunteer firefighters from South Williamsport and Woodward Township manned city fire headquarters to handle other emergency calls.
Investigators still are working to determine the cause of Saturday's blaze that destroyed a home on Carone Drive in Lycoming Township, displacing a family of four. A fire Thursday in the 1100 block of Tule Street in Montoursville has been ruled accidental.
Investigators have not released any information on what caused the fire at Maurica George's modular home at the Heatherbrook Estates in Muncy Creek Township on April 17 nor have fire officials said what caused the house fire on West Central Avenue in South Williamsport that displaced Chad Day and Candy Kitchen on April 16.