Landscaper vows to rebuild after fire at Potter Township site

mcarroll@centredaily.comNovember 11, 2013 

— Life returned Monday to Scott Burk’s business.

Heavy equipment rumbled, employees toiled across the property. Amid the commotion sat the twisted, burned-out shell of Scott’s Landscaping.

Hot spots within the building still were smoking just hours after it was ravaged by flames Sunday night.

“It’s overwhelming,” Burk said while surveying the damage. “It’s everything you have.”

In spite of the ruin, an emotional but resilient Burk was beginning to turn the page Monday.

Operating from a second building untouched by the fire, Burk set his team into motion. Some salvaged records from the fire-damaged office, others dug a ditch and ran a line to restore power to the site’s gas pumps.

A few crews were out conducting business as usual, fulfilling landscaping jobs promised to customers. By Tuesday, nearly the entire fleet of 30 trucks could be back at work, except for three destroyed by the fire, Burk vowed.

“We were getting ready to change seasons from summer work to winter work,” he said. “This time of year, you prepare for snow. You don’t prepare for this.”

For Burk, the fire was a setback, not a death sentence, for the business he started in 1990 and helped grow to employ 65 people during peak seasons.

“We are definitely going to rebuild at this location,” he said.

His employees rallied Monday as the first steps of the process started.

Jeff Krezo, commercial maintenance coordinator, said all of the company’s employees, even some who were scheduled for vacation, were pitching in Monday.

“You really feel the teamwork,” Krezo said.

Crews called back to the scene

Firefighters had returned to the property along U.S. Route 322 twice by Monday evening.

Centre Hall Fire Chief Harry Hockenberry said crews dealt with two minor fires when hotspots rekindled.

Hockenberry said an investigation into the blaze is ongoing, and a state police fire marshal is expected at the scene Tuesday.

He could not provide additional details about how the fire might have started, but said it does not appear to be suspicious.

Burk, who was nearby when alerted by his security system, said he was the first to respond around 6:20 p.m. Sunday. He waited minutes for the first emergency responders to arrive.

“You’re helpless,” Burk said, his voice cracking. “You watch it burn.”

Flames were pouring from the roof by the time firefighters could arrive.

Hockenberry said high winds helped the blaze spread quickly. In addition to the building, the business lost three vehicles that were inside.

Firefighters were able to get another vehicle out of the structure, and others helped push several more away from the heat, likely saving them. They were also able to save files from inside the office.

Hockenberry said they had a problem getting enough water. Multiple tanker trucks were called to help with the water issues.

A portion of Route 322 was closed until early Monday morning while crews battled the blaze.

Matt Carroll can be reached at 231-4631. Follow him on Twitter @Carrollreporter.

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