Fire leaves 3 homeless
BY LARRY DEKLINSKI AND MARK GILGER (STAFF WRITERS)
Published: January 10, 2010
SHAMOKIN - Fire gutted a row home Saturday morning in the 600 block of Bear Valley Avenue, but quick response and determined efforts by firefighters prevented two other structures from being demolished.The fire left three women homeless. No injuries were reported.The blaze broke out shortly before 8 a.m. at the home of Chastity Lahr, 30, Noelle Fabrizio, 25, and Shannon Long, 32, of 690 Bear Valley Ave. Lahr and Fabrizio were able to escape unharmed. Long, who owns the property, was not home at the time of the fire. Firefighters, who had to battle approximate 20-degree temperatures, kept most of the damage to the one row home. Minor smoke and water damage was reported to adjoining houses at 688 Bear Valley Ave., inhabited by 33-year-old Stanley A. Wichurowski III and owned by his parents, Sharon and Stanley Wichurowski, of 1610 Pulaski Ave., Coal Township, and 692 Bear Valley Ave. occupied by Nikitia Sims, 23, and Shaine M. Wyland, 31. The Wichurowskis have insurance, police said. Ida M. Wyland, of 918 W. Spruce St., Coal Township, is the owner of the home at 692 Bear Valley Ave. She does not have insurance, according to police. Shamokin Fire Chief Jim Catino said the blaze started in a bathroom ceiling area in the basement of 690 Bear Valley Ave., which was left uninhabitable. Catino said the fire was electrical in nature and has been ruled accidental. No damage estimate was available Saturday.
"There was heavy fire on the first floor," Catino said of the conditions at 690 Bear Valley Ave. "We had an excellent stop." The blaze was reported at 7:50 a.m. to the Northumberland County 911 Center as a working structure fire by Shamokin Patrolman Raymond Siko II, who was the first emergency responder to arrive at the scene. Patrolman Scott Weaver and Coal Township Patrolman Terry Ketchem also responded to the fire call within minutes and assisted Siko in making sure everyone was safe.
Siko said he saw heavy black smoke coming from the front door area of 690 Bear Valley Ave. Siko then made contact with Lahr and Fabrizio, who were standing in the front door area of their home and informed the officer that they were the only residents in the house at the time. Lahr said the fire was in the basement area near the bathroom and that the fire was visible in the ceiling. Siko went to the doorway leading to the basement, where he spotted heavy black smoke coming from under the doorway. The officer said he could hear the fire "crackling." Siko then directed Lahr and Fabrizio to stand across the street.
Ketchem forced open the front door at 692 Bear Valley Ave. and alerted Sims, who was sleeping, to evacuate the home. Police were then advised by neighbors that Wichurowski may still be inside his home, prompting Siko to force open the front door at 688 Bear Valley Ave. and search the second floor for occupants, with negative results.
After exiting Wichurowski's residence, Siko said Ketchem informed him that Sims ran back into her home and went upstairs to apparently look for dogs. Siko then met Sims on the stairwell of the second floor and instructed her to leave the home. Three dogs were located in a cage on the first floor of the home and removed from the residence by Siko and Ketchem. Sims confirmed that nobody else was inside the home. Siko then informed Catino at the scene that all the occupants of the home had been accounted for.
Officers also assisted with traffic and crowd control during the fire. Siko and Shamokin Deputy Fire Chief Robert Wolfe later interviewed Lahr, Fabrizio and Long. Lahr said she and Fabrizio were sleeping in the basement of the home when she was awakened by an activated smoke detector. When she awoke, Lahr saw heavy smoke filling the basement and then went to wake up Fabrizio, who called 911 to report the fire. Long told police she has insurance on the property. Siko also talked to Wichurowski, who told the officer he was staying at a friend's house and was not home at the time of the fire. Sims told police there are no smoke detectors in her home and that her room was filled with smoke when she awoke. Sims said she lives with Shaine Wyland, who was at work when the fire broke out. "I heard the smoke alarm go off and went into the bathroom because it looked like there was a light on inside," said Lahr. "Then I saw flames underneath the first floor." Lahr and Long were seen hugging relatives and friends across from their home as firefighters extinguished the fire. Both were later invited to a nearby home to escape the freezing conditions. "I'm glad they got it out and I'm glad they are OK," said Leona Dworchak, Long's aunt. "My son told me it (house) was on fire. I didn't know if they were in there or not." Dworchak said the fire came just months after they had replaced the vinyl siding and the roof, and installed wood floors. She was unsure if her niece had insurance, but was confident that Long's father would provide housing. Quick stop
Not the first time "I feel so bad for my neighbors," said Wyland. "They are good people and they just fixed their home." For Wyland, the fire came almost two years to the day when a fire destroyed his apartment on North Shamokin Street. On Jan. 12, 2008, his apartment at 19 N. Shamokin St. was destroyed by fire that ignited from a defective flue from a coal space heater. Although he was left temporarily homeless from that fire, Wyland said Saturday's fire only caused minor water and smoke damage to his home. Wyland said he would be staying at his home overnight.
Wyland and friends were seen walking in and out of the home, checking for damage, and boarding up a window smashed by firefighters to gain entry to the home.
"I think someone put a hex on me," said Wyland of the two fires.
Responding to the fire were members of Shamokin Fire Bureau, Ralpho Fire Company, Maine Fire Company in Coal Township, AREA Services, fire police, and employees of the Shamokin Street Department, who cindered the streets and sidewalks at the fire scene.
The scene was secured at about 10:30 a.m.
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