Coal Twp. firefighter's home destroyed by blaze
COAL TOWNSHIP - Usually when a fire alarm sounds, Coal Township Rescue Squad member Jim Hoffman is one of the first people to get into gear and respond to the scene.
On Thursday, all he could do was watch while his own home went up in flames.
The double home, which he shared with his wife Cheryl, at 1308 W. Independence St. was destroyed in a two-alarm blaze at 5:47 p.m.
"I just can't believe it," Hoffman was overheard saying while he watched his fellow firefighters work to try to save his home.
Dark smoke could be seen from as far as Shamokin's business district on Independence Street; the back half of the home was fully involved.
"It was well involved when we arrived, so we approached it initially from a defensive standpoint," Coal Township assistant fire chief Mike Timco said.
Firefighters used hoses on the ground and deck guns on ladders to work on containing the blaze in the rear of the home, which was most heavily engulfed.
Once under control from the outside, firefighters made their way inside, looking for hot spots and pushing the fire up to the third floor and out the roof.
Timco said the blaze was under control in about 45 minutes, but he could not determine the cause at the scene Thursday.
"We have called a state police fire marshal in for the investigation," Timco said.
While friends, family and other firefighters gathered around them, Jim and Cheryl Hoffman accepted hugs and well-wishes. All they could do is sit in shock and watch in disbelief.
The rear of the three-story home was charred and the front of it sustained heavy smoke and water damage. Timco said the home is a total loss.
Jim Hoffman was the only one home at the time of the blaze, according to his wife, and escaped without injury. They were being assisted at the scene by members of the American Red Cross.
"There is a lot of concern, because Jim and Cheryl have been great friends to the Coal Township Fire Department," Timco said. "We are going to give them all the support we can."
While Jim Hoffman gives his time as a first responder with the Coal Township Rescue Squad, his wife serves as the membership secretary of the squad and the recording secretary of the Coal Township Fire Department.
All crews from Shamokin and Coal Township responded to the scene, working in the tight confines of West Independence Street. AREA Services Ambulance and fire police also responded.