RANSHAW - An 80-year-old Webster Street woman was left homeless Monday morning when fire gutted the upper floors of her property, but quick and heroic action by neighbors prevented her from being injured or killed.

Quick response by firefighters from multiple communities kept the 8:24 a.m. two-alarm blaze at 516-518 Webster St. from causing serious damage to neighboring houses.

The blaze started at the four-story home of Janet (Balonis) Millard, of 516 Webster St., before quickly spreading to an adjoining vacant structure at 518 Webster St., located approximately one block from the former St. Anthony Grade School. Millard owns both properties.

Helpful neighbors

Millard was escorted from her homestead shortly after the fire broke out by Bob Kaleta, of 504 Webster St., and another neighbor, Raymond Siko II, a Shamokin patrolman, fire investigator and firefighter.

Siko said Kaleta initially went into the structure and was able to remove Millard, but the woman re-entered the home for a short time before Siko went back in and escorted her out safely.

Millard, who was provided shelter at the scene, reportedly is living with relatives.

Coal Township Fire Chief Russ Feese didn't know if Millard is insured.

Kaleta's wife, Diane, was able to safely remove 85-year-old Christine Horoshock, of 514 Webster St., from her dwelling, which was soaked with water during the firefighting efforts but escaped serious damage. The house sustained minor smoke damage, too.

Horoshock, who was eating breakfast in the kitchen on the ground floor of her residence when the fire started, was taken across the street by Diane Kaleta to the home of Rick and Barb Buehl, of 519 Webster St., where she was provided comfort and support by Mrs. Buehl, other friends and family members, including her son and daughter-in-law, Alan and Joanne Horoshock, of Overlook.

The Ranshaw woman, obviously upset by the fire, was evaluated by emergency medical personnel but did not require any additional treatment.

While covered in a blanket and sitting in a chair in the Buehl residence, Horoshock made reference to the fire by saying about her house, "I don't want to see it go."

Horoshock, whose home is insured, has lived in the residence her entire life.

She is temporarily staying with her son and daughter-in-law.

Ignited by candles

Feese said the blaze started when glass-enclosed candles burning on a landing between the ground and first floors of Millard's residence caught something on fire. He said the fire progressed up through a middle wall separating the double-home, causing extensive fire, smoke and water damage to the top three floors of both properties. The basement/kitchen area on the ground floors of 516-518 Webster St. sustained major water damage and some smoke damage.

Feese and state police fire marshal Kirk Renn from the Milton station determined the cause and origin of the accidental fire during their one-hour inspection of the properties that began at 11:45 a.m.

Heavy black smoke was initially spotted coming from the home before flames burst through the rooftop. At 9 a.m., the roof started to cave in, prompting a siren to be activated to warn firefighters to evacuate the structure.

Firefighters brought the fire under control in about 75 minutes and remained at the scene until 1:30 p.m.

'Deepest appreciation'

A home at 520 Webster St. inhabited by 35-year-old George Gredzinski sustained fire, smoke and water damage to its siding on the north side. Gredzinski, who is a teacher in Shamokin Area School District, was working at the time of the fire.

A neighbor was able to rescue Gredzinski's dog, Max, from the home and provide it shelter.

Gredzinski's home is owned by his uncle, Greg Wisloski, of Ranshaw. Gredzinski and his uncle are both insured.

After the fire, Wisloski said, "I would like to express our deepest appreciation to all the firefighters who helped save our family homestead."

Coal Township Assistant Fire Chief Michael Timco, Shamokin Deputy Fire Chief Jason Zimmerman and Battalion Chief Bruce Rogers assisted Feese in coordinating firefighting efforts at the scene.

Timco said between 50 and 75 firefighters fought the blaze. He and Feese commended all the personnel who responded to the mutual aid call.

An aerial truck from Rescue Fire Company in Shamokin was used to gain access to the roof area at 516-518 Webster St., while ground ladders were used by firefighters to scale the property in the front and back.

Timco said, "It was a good stop, considering the narrowness of the street and cold weather. The manpower that turned out was great, considering the fire occurred when many firefighters were at work."

The assistant fire chief said tanker trucks were brought in from Elysburg, Ralpho, Trevorton, East Cameron Township and Aristes fire companies to increase water volume. He said electrical wires hanging from utility poles on the street did not hinder the aggressive attack taken by firefighters.

Timco said no injuries were reported.

In addition to numerous firefighters from Coal Township and Shamokin and the tanker trucks, responding were fire units from Kulpmont, Mount Carmel, Mount Carmel Township and Wilburton, AREA Services Ambulance, Coal Township and Shamokin police, Coal Township Rescue Squad, Shamokin Emergency Squad, Coal Township Fire Police and American Red Cross personnel.

Engines from Columbia, Snyder and Schuylkill counties were placed on standby.