Five people escaped from a burning home just in the nick of time early Monday morning as smoke started filling the property on Linn Street in Lycoming Township.
"John is the only reason any of us are alive today," 22-year-old Timothy Schoch said Tuesday afternoon outside the fire-ravaged home at 3655 Linn St.
Schoch lived there with his mother, Galene Reynolds; her friend, John Fogleman, 49; Fogleman's 41-year-old brother, Earnest Welch, and family friend, Cody Isherwood.
A burned-out shell is all that remains of a mobile home that was destroyed by fire Monday morning.
Although it was Reynolds who was awakened just before 6 a.m. by the dense smoke, it was Fogleman, alerted by Reynolds, who found where the fire was and alerted all the others to get out.
Also, when Reynolds became trapped inside the inferno while she was on the telephone with a 911 dispatcher, it was Fogleman who went back inside and pulled her to safety through another door, according to her son and Hope.
The fire originated in a laundry room, Old Lycoming Township Fire Chief Joseph Hope confirmed Tuesday.
Hope said the home had no smoke alarms, and had Reynolds not awakened when she did, "we could very well have had five fatalities."
When Fogleman reached the laundry room, "a whole wall in the room was on fire," Schoch said.
"As he ran back to alert us, the fire was chasing him," Schoch said, referring to Fogleman.
Hope said the origin of the fire appeared to be in the area of an electrical box in the laundry room. "We suspect the fire was electrical in nature," he said.
A number of extension cords were used to power space heaters in the home, Hope noted. Inspectors suspect the cords became overheated.
When firefighters from Old Lycoming and Hepburn townships arrived on the scene, flames were shooting 10 feet out the front door, Hope said. City firefighters also responded. The bulk of the fire was knocked down in about 30 minutes.
At least four dogs and six cats died in the fire. One dog, Schoch's pit bull, Bo, got out.
The local chapter of the American Red Cross was assisting Reynolds' family with emergency shelter.
"We have three days at a motel thanks to the Red Cross, but after that we have no place to go," Schoch said.
Hope believed none of the victims had fire insurance.
With winter season soon approaching, he urges everyone to be very cautious when using any kind of space heater.
"Keep them away from all combustibles (things that can catch fire), and don't plug them into extension cords. It's important that us use proper electrical circuits (when using such heaters)," Hope said.
He also said it's not a good idea to keep space heaters on when one is sleeping or is out of the house.
However, the most important thing he stressed was installing homes with working smoke alarms.