Officials: Four people escape fire that destroys Kernville home | News

JOHNSTOWN, Pa. — A smoke detector is credited with expediting the evacuation of four residents from a home in the Kernville section of Johnstown that was destroyed by flames Saturday night.

“They were alerted by a smoke detector that went off on the second floor,” Johnstown Fire Deputy Chief Randy Novosel said Sunday from the downtown Public Safety Building.

One of the four adult residents was taken to Conemaugh Memorial Medical Center by private vehicle for treatment for smoke inhalation, as well as exposure resulting from the flight in freezing temperatures, Novosel said.

The fire started just before 9 p.m. Saturday in a second-floor bedroom near the back of the house in the 400 block of Franklin Street, Novosel said.

Flames and billowing smoke from second-story windows drew the attention of those crossing the intersection of Haynes and Franklin streets or entering the Sheetz store.

When Johnstown firefighters arrived on the scene, a major fire broke out on the second floor. Crews entered the building for an interior attack on the fire. This approach appears to be working, with most flames quickly extinguished, Novosel said.

But by then the fire was within the walls of the structure, spreading to the attic and starting fires on the first floor.

“After many attempts at an inside attack, the conditions became too dangerous, so we made the decision to switch to a defensive attack from the outside,” Novosel said.

Temperatures in the lower teens defied the battle.

The East Hills Ambulance Association provided a rehab tent with a heater and the Nanty Glo Fire Department brought their rehab trailer as warm up areas for the firefighters.

Firefighters alternated between warming up stations and attacking with fire to ensure their safety, Novosel said.

“It was quite a difficult night because of the weather conditions,” he said.

A second alarm raised during the initial attack brought in rapid response crews from the Richland Township and West Hills area fire departments. Later, the Nanty Glo, Windber and East Taylor fire departments brought crews and equipment into town to stand by and respond with a deputy chief from Johnstown to any additional calls.

The structure next to the house suffered fire damage on the second floor and water damage throughout. The building, located about two feet from the burning house, housed the offices of dentist Thomas Bach.

Firefighters were able to enter the office and place protective tarps over valuable equipment, Novosel said.

Because the house’s structure had become unstable, a contractor brought in excavation equipment early Sunday and dismantled the charred remains.

Randy Griffith is a multimedia reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at 532-5057. Follow him on Twitter @PhotoGriffer57.

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