Republican & Herald, Pottsville, Pa.
Feb. 10—MINERSVILLE — Eight people were displaced Tuesday afternoon when a fire damaged a historic home on the borough’s main street.
Fire crews responded to the building at 28 Sunbury St. just after 3 p.m., Police Chief Michael Combs said, adding the occupants were coming out when the first firefighters arrived on the scene.
“Everyone got out safely,” he said on the scene.
Crews worked to knock down the blaze as smoke poured from windows of the stone house at the corner of Sunbury and North Front streets, with damage visible around the building’s windows. In addition to the eight people inside at the time of the fire, Combs said three cats were also rescued from the building.
Allison Wildermuth, 22, and her 4-year old daughter, Chloe Wildermuth, were among the occupants that escaped the building. Wildermuth said she was getting ready for work that afternoon, while her daughter was in an upstairs bathroom. Her daughter’s babysitter, Todd Bernhard, had just arrived to watch her when Wildermuth said she opened her bedroom door and saw smoke, which was coming from the upstairs bathroom.
“As soon as I realized that was where the smoke was, I went and got her out,” she said holding her daughter across from the home, a white blanket wrapped around her shoulders.
However, Allison Wildermuth said she found the stairs leading to the bathroom to be full of smoke, which terrified her.
“It was sheer panic because the second I got to the stairs, the smoke was so dark, I could barely see an inch in front of my face,” she recounted. “It burned my eyes and lungs.”
Bernhard, who resides a block away on Lewis Street, arrived at the apartment that afternoon when he heard what he described as a “cat or kid yelling.” He opened the front door to the building, smelled smoke and yelled at the occupants to get out.
“The top floor was heavily smoky,” he said on the sidewalk across from the house.
Combs said the smoke was “intense” with firefighters having to break windows to fight the fire. The building’s layout also made it confusing for firefighters.
“It’s a maze in there,” he said.
Allison Wildermuth said she was checked out by Schuylkill EMS paramedics and she and Chloe Wildermuth are staying with her mother and sister in New Castle Township. Glancing at the building, she was still taking in what happened.
“This is one of those things you never think will happen and then it does,” Allison Wildermuth said.
One other person was also checked out by paramedics but Combs said there were no injuries to either the occupants or firefighters. The American Red Cross Tri-County Chapter is assisting all eight occupants. In addition to the Wildermuths, the other residents are Mary Tuske, 27; Sean Serrari, 24; Amanda Henry, 28, and her children, Mia Tindall, 4, and Kloe Stoudt, 11, according to disaster services supervisor Patty Daley.
Minersville firefighters were assisted by companies from Frackville, Pottsville, Schuylkill Haven, Llewellyn, along with Schuylkill EMS, Tremont Area Ambulance Inc., and Minersville and Branch-Reilly police officers.
The building was built in 1860, according to property records, and housed the offices of the late Dr. Arthur DiNicola. Teresa DeTurk, the building’s owner, watched firefighters bring the fire under control outside the Minersville Pharmacy on Sunbury and North Front streets. She has owned the building for three years and lived there until moving to Mohrsville, Berks County, several months ago.
“It’s a shame to see it all destroyed,” she said, adding the building has a lot of original flooring and crown molding.
Combs also noted the historical nature of the building, saying it is “one of the most beautiful” in the borough.
The street was closed at Second and Sunbury streets; Front and Lewis streets and Sunbury and Delaware streets while crews battled the fire. Fire police officers directed traffic onto surrounding streets. Combs said borough police and firefighters are investigating the cause.
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