2 homeless in C.T. fire Unattended cigarette is identified as cause
COAL TOWNSHIP - A township resident ran shoeless through flames to escape his burning home early Friday morning.
Andrew Britton, 28, of 1153 Pulaski Ave., was listening to music in his second-floor bedroom around 1:30 a.m. when he smelled something unusual. Moments later, a smoke detector sounded from the floor below.
"Something didn't smell right, so I ran downstairs, and (found) my whole living room and kitchen area was on fire," Britton said. "The front door is my only way out, so I ran through the flames."
Britton said his right arm hit a wall on the way out of the burning house, which he said caused first-degree burns.
He was later evaluated by emergency medical technicians, but refused treatment.
When the first fire engine arrived, flames were shooting out of the front door and windows. A power line became detached from the home and sporadically shot bright blue and white sparks near firefighters who worked to contain the blaze.
Initially, firefighters fought the fire from the exterior and interior of the structure. However, firefighters exited the home shortly into the operation when conditions became too dangerous.
"The second and third floors of the building were in danger of collapsing, and the fire started to go underneath the roof," said Coal Township Deputy Fire Chief Kevin Malukas. "That's when I decided to get everyone out."
Malukas said a second alarm was dispatched, which brought more manpower to the scene.
Britton said he did not notice anything wrong when he arrived home around an hour before he noticed the smoke.
"I lost it all," he said as he puffed on a cigarette and sipped some beer.
He lived in the home for nearly five years and was currently renting it. He lived with his wife, who was not home at the time of the fire.
Malukas said the Brittons are staying with relatives.
The Brittons do not have renter's insurance. Malukas said the owner of the home, Magisterial District Judge John Gembic III, is insured.
Malukas said township fire officials ruled the fire accidental. He said the blaze was caused by a burning cigarette left unattended in a chair on the first floor.
The deputy fire chief, who was assisted at the scene by township fire chief Russ Feese, assistant chief Michael Timco and fire marshal Dave Mrozowski, said the home sustained extensive damage and is unlivable in its current state.
He commended all the firefighters for their efforts and also thanked local businesses for providing refreshments and doughnuts at the scene.
In addition to all Coal Township fire units, also responding were AREA Services, members of Rescue and Liberty fire companies in Shamokin, Shamokin Emergency Squad and fire police.
Fire personnel remained at the scene until 6:30 a.m. Friday.