MOUNT CARMEL - Susan Marino looked around her home Wednesday - holes cut into the roof and walls - dismayed at the loss from a fire Tuesday evening.

"This was the old homestead," she said. "My great-great grandparents and great-grandmother all lived here. I had pictures and mementos on the second floor, but they are probably gone now."

Marino's home at 449 E. Center St. was one of three damaged by the blaze, which started at 447 E. Center St., the home of Ronald Barron, at about 6:20 p.m., authorities said. Also damaged was 445 E. Center St. Six people are homeless.

State Police Fire Marshal Kirk Renn said he couldn't determine the cause of the fire despite 2 1/2 hours investigating inside Barron's home Wednesday morning.

He determined the fire started in a back room on the second floor.

"There is too much damage in the room" to determine an exact cause, he said. He said there are a couple spots "that I have opinions about," but he can't pinpoint a cause.

Flames were seen shooting from the back of Barron's home when firefighters arrived Tuesday evening.

Barron and his son, Seth, 7, were displaced by the blaze, as were Amanda Mayernick, her boyfriend, Tony Santelli, and a one-week old daughter, Ava Grace, living at 445 E. Center St. (the second half of a double home with Barron's); and Marino at 449 E. Center St.

Mayernick and her family are staying temporarily with Santelli's family while Marino is staying with her sister-in-law. The person putting Barron up, Roger Kramer, said anyone wishing to donate clothes or items for him and his son can bring them to his residence at 236 W. Second St., Mount Carmel.

A call from Georgia

Marino said she was headed back home from a casino trip Tuesday when she learned about the blaze from her son in Georgia.

"He heard from a girl that he knew that still lives in town about the fire, and then he called me about it. I told him I would get there as quick as I could," Marino said. "He had a horrible dream about seven months ago that something like this was going to happen."

Steve Mayernick, Amanda's father and the owner of 445 E. Center St., stood outside Wednesday until fire investigators finished before going into his daughter's home to see if anything could be salvaged.

"That stuff can be replaced. The important thing is everyone got out safely and no one was hurt," Steve Mayernick said.

His daughter and her family were the only occupants from three residences at home when the fire broke out.

"They were watching TV when they heard this explosion. Tony checked upstairs and saw smoke coming from the walls and just got everyone out to safety, then checked to see if their neighbors were home," Steve Mayernick said.

Authorities believe the explosion they heard was a back window being blown out from heat building inside the room where the fire started.

Mayernick said he recently purchased the home from an estate and was in the process of getting insurance. He is grateful for the efforts of emergency workers.

"I'm also grateful the fire happened when it did," Mayernick said. "If this had occurred at 1 a.m., I don't know if they would have gotten out of there."

Marino said she was waiting to hear from her insurance adjuster, but was more concerned Wednesday about finding her cat, which ran away.

"I let the cat out before I left Tuesday and I'm glad I did," she said.

A short while later, she found the cat hiding underneath a nearby shed, but couldn't immediately coax her out.

"She's a little freaked out," Marino said.

Heavy damage was reported in the second floors and attics in the Barron and Marino homes. Mayernick's home has smoke and water damage.

Joining Mount Carmel in the firefighting effort were crews from Shamokin, Coal Township, Mount Carmel Township, Ashland and Kulpmont, along with Sunbury's Americus Hose who brought a rehab trailer to help provide a warm place and coffee for firefighters.

Assisting Renn in his investigation Wednesday were Mount Carmel Second Assistant Fire Chief Jack Williams Jr. and Mount Carmel Township Police Chief Brian Hollenbush.