EXCELSIOR - A dryer fire erupted into a major blaze that gutted a two-story home on Lower Excelsior Road Friday afternoon, leaving an uninsured couple homeless.

No injuries were reported in the accidental fire. One of the homeowners, Rose Rickert, 49, and several of her grandchildren fled safely to a residence across the street.

The blaze was reported at 1:23 p.m. at 140 Lower Excelsior Road inhabited by Rickert and her 50-year-old husband, Thomas, who was working at Arcos Industries near Strong.

According to Pam Carl, a cousin of the Rickerts, a dryer in the laundry room near the front porch entrance caught fire. The blaze quickly spread to other parts of the older home and eventually caused the roof to collapse.

The 43-year-old Carl, who resides on Iron Street, said her cousin smelled smoke before spotting flames. She said Rickert attempted to extinguish the fire, but was unsuccessful.

She said her cousin alerted her six grandchildren ranging in age from 2 to 9 and everyone was able to flee the home safely. They found shelter with neighbors Marlin and Marylou Bainbridge.

The hood, bumper and front grill of a silver van owned by the Rickerts that was parked in front of the entrance to the home sustained extensive damage from the fire.

Carl told The News-Item her cousins were too distraught to talk about the fire. She said the Rickerts, who reportedly are not insured, lived in the home for at least 20 years. They will be staying with relatives.

Personnel from the American Red Cross were at the scene to offer assistance, and many neighbors gathered to provide support.

A neighbor who preferred not to be identified, said, "Thank God everyone got out. These houses up here are so old. This could have happened to anyone."

Firefighters were able to bring the blaze under control at about 3:30 p.m. Timco said the fire was declared out at 5 p.m. Fire personnel remained at the scene until 7:30 p.m. to check for flare-ups. It's not considered suspicious.

Route 901 was reopened to traffic in both directions shortly before 5:30 p.m.

Coal Township Assistant Fire Chief Michael Timco said the exact cause and origin of the fire remain under investigation.

A state fire marshal is expected on the scene Monday.

Timco initially directed firefighters to battle the blaze from only the outside due to the unstable condition of the structure from the fire. He later granted permission for firefighters to mount an interior attack.

Timco said there was no problem with water pressure from the hydrants in the tiny Coal Township village, but a tanker operation was used to supplement the water supply.

Assisting Timco in directing firefighting efforts were Coal Township Deputy Fire Chief Kevin Malukas, Shamokin Battalion Chief Bruce Rogers and Deputy Fire Chief Jason Zimmerman. In addition to all Coal Township fire units, also responding were firefighters from Shamokin, including ladder and rescue truck personnel. Tanker trucks were summoned from Elysburg, Overlook, East Cameron Township, Beaverdale and Aristes to aid with the water volume.

AREA Services personnel and PPL employees also provided assistance at the scene.

Coal Township police and fire police directed traffic away from Excelsior at the eastern and western ends of Route 901 and set up flares on the highway to warn motorists approaching the village during the early stages of the blaze.

Friday's fire was the second major blaze in the local community this week.

On Monday morning, five people were left homeless when fire gutted two homes in the 100 block of South Vine Street known as "Hogan's Alley."