As he was getting ready for work at about 10:25 a.m. Monday, Philipsburg Fire Department Chief Jeffrey Harris got the call for a structure fire with entrapment at 109 Loch Lomond Road, just a few houses down from where he lives.
Wearing a black hooded sweatshirt, blue jeans and boots, Harris ran down the street and into the burning home to help with getting the three occupants out to safety.
“They told me there was entrapment, and I just wanted to make sure everyone was out of the house,” he said. “Once they were out, we started doing an assessment to figure out where the fire was at, and what we had to do to put the fire out.”
Harris said it wasn’t difficult to get the people out, he just helped guide them out the side door of the home. The patients were treated at the scene for smoke inhalation, and two were transported to Mount Nittany Medical Center, Harris said, and Moshannon Valley EMS confirmed. He doesn’t believe the injuries were serious.
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There were also two dogs in the home. Harris said one was found deceased, and the other had not yet been located.
At 11:50 a.m., firefighters were still working to put out the flames in the back left corner of the house, but Harris said they were close to extinguishing the blaze, and would likely mark control soon.
The cause of the fire was not immediately known, but Harris said he believes it started in the kitchen area. The fire marshal was en route from Lewistown to conduct an investigation and determine the cause of the fire Monday afternoon.
At least eight different fire companies responded, by Harris’ count, including Philipsburg Fire Department, Chester Hill, Sandy Ridge, Morrisdale, Columbia and Alpha. Moshannon Valley EMS, the Sandy Ridge ambulance, state police, PennDOT, the Salvation Army, Penelec and Pennsylvania American Water Company also responded.
Harris believes the house is a total loss, and the family has been displaced.
Although Harris said it’s his instinct as a firefighter to run into burning buildings — even in street clothes — it is something they have to think twice about, especially with the serious injury sustained by 19-year-old Hope firefighter Tyler Thomas when he got trapped in rubble after a wall collapsed while fighting a warehouse fire in Clearfield County in January. Another firefighter also injured his arm in that blaze.
After that incident, Harris said fire chiefs have started to get leery, “more and more every call,” and have started thinking more about whether to pull their firefighters out earlier than they normally would.
“It’s starting to get scary,” he said. “But you still have a job to do, to go in and put the fire out as safe as we can.”