Top 10, #2: Shamokin mourned loss of young life in fire
SHAMOKIN - Bouquets of flowers wrapped in plastic still adorn the doorstep of 5 S. Rock St., now vacant after destroyed by fire Dec. 10.
Inside is where 13-year-old Melissa Lee "Missy" Pangburn had lived, and in her third-floor attic bedroom, is where she died, overcome by carbon monoxide.
Many stuffed animals were left on the front porch by those who grieved. Deflated mylar balloons are still tied to metal porch columns and railing, on which Christmas lights and garland had been hung before the blaze.
Laid about the porch are handwritten goodbye notes from friends and classmates. On the sidewalk sit at least two dozen candles that had been lit the night of a vigil.
Police said a cigarette discarded in the second floor sparked the deadly fire that claimed Pangburn's life, altered many others and destroyed five row homes.
Joan Muskey and her husband, Mike, lost their home at 1 S. Rock St. She also owned 3 S. Rock St. She and her late husband, John Mrowka, bought the corner home in 1965 and the neighboring half-double 30 years later.
Mary Kryzykwa, 84, of 7 S. Rock St., lost her home of 60 years.
Also destroyed was 9 S. Rock St., owned by Keith Tamborelli, of Kulpmont, which he purchased in 2010.
Bernie and Jan Nestico, of Kulpmont, owned 5 S. Rock St., which they rented to Pangburn's family. A seventh-grader at Shamokin Area Middle/High School, she lived at the half-double with her mother, Barbara Ann Wiley, stepfather, Joseph "Wes" Vecchio, and two siblings, Jonathan Wiley, 16, and Meadow Vecchio, 9 months.
Dec. 10 was a cold day, and forecasts had predicted a winter storm would mess the roads. The school day at Shamokin Area was canceled. Pangburn was home and was bored, saying as much in two "selfie" photographs she posted to Facebook just 11 minutes before the fire was reported to 9-1-1 at 10:58 a.m.
Police officers, neighbors and firefighters who made it to the scene first worked diligently, some entering the home in an attempt to save anyone inside. They were turned away by the flames that had begun to engulf the first floor and were spreading quickly. Others attempted to access the second floor from a rear porch roof, to no avail.
Fire and medical personnel from Shamokin and Coal Township and seven neighboring communities responded. Hose lines were run inside and out of the row homes in efforts to extinguish the blaze. It was mostly out in less than an hour, but not before causing massive damage and loss of life.
Little snow fell Dec. 10; more did on Dec. 14, when a funeral service was held at the middle/high school auditorium. Some who attended walked despite the weather, and hundreds in all attended either the viewing or the funeral service or both. Photos of Pangburn were displayed, and her friends sang some of her favorite songs. A microphone was passed, and several relatives and friends spoke of Pangburn and her impact on their lives.
The homes will eventually be razed, their contents replaced to one degree or another. Pangburn's life is lost, irreplaceable to those who loved her.