RENOVO - A state police fire marshal has determined that Monday night's fire at 232 10th Street was caused by an electrical problem, Renovo Fire Chief Jim Risley reports.
The fire started in the kitchen of the home occupied by Josh Bruno and Erin Minihan and spread quickly, destroying the two-story house and damaging an unoccupied house next door.
Bruno and Minihan lost everything, Risley said. Additionally, property owner Mark Morocko had many personal items in the house and they were also destroyed, he said.
The Red Cross is helping Bruno and Minihan as well as residents of the home at 236 10th Street, which suffered smoke and water damage.
The fire broke out in a house that is sandwiched between two others, both owned by by Dennis and Paula Johnson, whose son Mason and sister Mary Lou live in one of the homes. The other is vacant.
A couple of inches separate the eaves of the Morocko house and the Johnson houses. As fire crews arrived Monday night, flames were already burning the side of the vacant house.
The fact that both of those houses are still standing with only cosmetic damage is remarkable, and a testament to the volunteers who responded, Risley said.
The Renovo Fire Department is located just a block away from the fire scene and some fire company members had attended a training session and were still at the station Monday evening when the fire broke out.
After leaving the fire hall, member Kari Kepler walked to her home, which is near the house that burned. "I heard someone screaming outside that their house was on fire and immediately saw the smoke," Kari said.
She said she called 911 and ran back to the fire company where some members were still gathered. She alerted them and the firefighters jumped on trucks and proceeded to the fire.
"If this had happened at two in the morning, it absolutely would have been tragic. It would have spread up and down the block," Risley said.
There were no smoke detectors in the Bruno-Minihan house.
Despite the response time of mere minutes, firefighters said flames were barreling out of the house through the rear doors and windows and already creeping up the side of the vacant house next door.
Just as Renovo firemen Justin Hillyer and Dylan Hand were turning on hoses, an electric line began showering blue sparks on them and loud popping sounds were heard as the live wire fell to the ground.
As it became evident that the house would likely be destroyed, firefighters concentrated on containing the fire to the one house.
With flames at one point reaching around eight feet from the roof of the property, it seemed imminent that the fire would spread to the Johnson home, and neighbors and friends began carrying furniture and personal items from the house.
From the backyard where the majority of the flames were visible, Citizen's Hose Company members Dave Knauff and Jesse Newlen kept a constant stream on the eaves to prevent flames from jumping to the Johnson house.
With temperatures below zero, water quickly froze on the ground, causing slippery conditions for volunteers. At one point Newlen said he asked for another pair of gloves as his hands were burning from the cold. The water was turned off for a few seconds as Newlen changed gloves and then resumed hosing down the house.
After fighting the fire for nearly an hour and a half, it became evident that the fire was going to be contained in the middle house.
When asked about cost of damage to her house on Wednesday afternoon, Paula Johnson shrugged off the smoke and water damage.
"You cannot put a price tag on what the fire crews did the other night. It's still unbelievable that they saved our house, it's amazing."
"We had a real good knock-down" said Risley. "We were able to get out of the station and here right away. From there we have experienced guys who just went to work."
Lock Haven area fire companies also responded to the fire. Renovo firefighters were on the scene for about three hours.
This was the second time in two days area firefighters were called to the Renovo area. On Saturday night, a flu fire spread quickly and destroyed the home of Craig and Ceceila Bowes in Farwell.