Fire leaves 5 homeless in Shamokin
SHAMOKIN - Five people without insurance were left homeless Monday morning when fire destroyed their half-double homes in the 100 block of South Vine Street known as "Hogan's Alley."
The 9:25 a.m. three-alarm blaze pressed approximately 75 firefighters into service from Shamokin, Coal Township and surrounding communities and created a chaotic scene in the Fifth Ward as fire engines and other emergency vehicles traveled through narrow streets and even along a dirt road next to railroad tracks to reach the fire.
Shamokin Deputy Fire Chief Jason Zimmerman said the fire started in the kitchen of 128 S. Vine St., inhabited by Rose Shurock, 73, and her 46-year-old son, Michael Shurock, who have lived in the home for 15 years.
The fire quickly spread from the kitchen area into the walls and ascended into the common attic area of the Shurock residence and 126 S. Vine St. occupied by Doris Burd, 34, her husband, Nathan Burd, 39, and their 13-year-old daughter, Octavia.
The Shurocks and Burds, who are not insured, were left homeless despite valiant efforts by firefighters to contain the blaze in the congested neighborhood.
The Shurocks said they plan to temporarily stay with a neighbor, Betty Scandle, 43, of 159 S. Vine St., while the Burds, who resided at the Vine Street property for seven years, will be living with Nathan's parents, Russell and Darlene Burd, of Overlook.
Rose Shurock, who watched firefighters battle the blaze while sitting under a tree with her collie/shepherd, Mistie, recalled defrosting a meal in a microwave earlier in the morning before falling asleep in a bed on the first floor. Her son was at Northumberland County Courthouse in Sunbury for a bench warrant hearing when he was notified about the fire and quickly returned home to comfort his mother.
"I saw the flames from the kitchen and I immediately exited the home with my dog before calling 911," Rose Shurock said.
Due to the extensive fire damage, neither Zimmerman nor city fire investigator Raymond Siko II could say if the meal being defrosted in the microwave or an electrical malfunction caused the blaze.
"We know the fire started in the kitchen area, but the cause is undetermined at this point," Zimmerman said. "It's not suspicious, but Ray (Siko) is continuing his investigation."
Doris Burd, who is diabetic, and her daughter were sleeping on the second floor when they smelled smoke.
"I woke up and looked at the walls and they were black," Doris Burd said. "I then got my daughter, grabbed my cell phone and some clothes and ran out of the house with our cocker spaniel, Ginger."
Nathan Burd was working at Amazon Distribution Center in Hazleton.
His parents quickly arrived at the scene to provide support to their daughter-in-law and granddaughter.
Neighbors, friends, employees from AREA Services and other emergency personnel also offered support and refreshments to the fire victims.
When approached by a neighbor who asked if she needed anything, a distraught Doris Burd responded, "Yeah, a new house."
Shamokin Patrolmen William Zalinski and Scott Weaver, who were the first personnel to arrive at the scene, quickly alerted residents on South Vine and South Pearl streets about the fire and helped escort some of them from their homes.
Volunteers from Friendship Fire Company, which is located several blocks away from the fire, responded to the half-double homes and began hitting the blaze with water. Heavy black smoke and flames were seen shooting from the kitchen area at 128 S. Vine St. before fire consumed the rear of the home and quickly made its way into the adjoining home.
Firefighters, under the command of Shamokin Battalion Chief Bruce Rogers, attacked the blaze from the front, rear and sides and were able to bring it under control at about 10:45 a.m. Assisting Rogers were Zimmerman, Siko, Coal Township Fire Chief Russ Feese and township assistant fire chief Michael Timco.
Shamokin Mayor William Milbrand, a longtime firefighter and former fire chief and public safety director, also assisted.
The most difficult firefighting stage occurred when the blaze reached the attic area of the homes, causing flames and dense smoke to emit from the rooftops.
During their attack, firefighters had to smash windows on all three floors and rip open sections of the siding and roofs with tools, including chain saws.
Firefighters battled the blaze in shifts and appeared exhausted as they exited the homes, but no injuries were reported. The volunteers were provided water and towels by neighbors and other concerned citizens.
A second alarm was sounded at 9:34 a.m. while the third alarm was activated at 10:13 a.m.
Fire and emergency units lined sections of South Vine, South Pearl and Pine streets and hoses were hooked up to fire hydrants, some of which are a couple blocks from the scene.
Large puddles of water formed in front of the homes from firefighters battling the blaze.
Zimmerman said the "balloon" frame structure of the homes was detrimental to firefighting efforts as flames quickly ran up into the walls and reached the third floor. The fire official said 95 percent of the homes in Shamokin have "balloon" frame structures.
The deputy fire chief did not have a damage estimate on the homes, but considered them both gutted.
He commended all the firefighters who responded to the mutual aid call and helped prevent the fire from spreading and becoming a bigger disaster.
He said ladder trucks from Shamokin, Mount Carmel and Sunbury were among the many engines summoned to the fire. In addition to all Shamokin and Coal Township fire and emergency units, firefighters from Elysburg, Overlook, Mount Carmel, Mount Carmel Township, Kulpmont and Sunbury along with AREA Services personnel responded. Additional engines from Sunbury, Northumberland and Danville were placed on standby.
Fire personnel remained at the scene until approximately 3 p.m.
At about 3:15 p.m., Zalinski and Weaver were summoned back to the scene for about 20 minutes to quell a disturbance between neighbors and Nathan Burd.
Police said the disturbance involved an argument and some finger pointing, but no physical altercation. Some witnesses and neighbors intervened and came to Burd's defense, which prevented a fight from breaking out. No injuries were reported. Police said charges will not be filed in the incident.