Dog alerts owners to fire that leaves Philipsburg residents homeless|
Saturday, February 04, 2012
By Terry Whetstone Staff Writer
PHILIPSBURG - They say dogs are man's best friend, or perhaps a woman's best friend, as Budweiser, a 5-year-old, full blooded silverback pug, is responsible for waking Melvin and Kimberly Emel yesterday morning to alert them to a fire in their apartment complex.
The fire, at 424 E. Spruce St., Philipsburg Borough, was raging out of control when firefighters arrived on scene, and initial reports were there was entrapment.
Kim Emel said Budweiser jumped into the bed and tried to wake her, but she thought he just had to go out again, which he'd done earlier. She said she pushed him aside and continued to sleep.
"Then he got right in my face and started to snarl," she said. "He'd never done that before and I woke up, smelling smoke and hearing the smoke alarms in the over half of the building."
Kim woke Melvin and they escaped through the front of the building, using a fire escape, with Budweiser.
"Once we got out, we started to alert the rest of the neighbors," Melvin said.
The Emels were sitting at the kitchen table of neighbor Marsha and Carl Furlong and daughter Sierra Moskol. They were trying to help the couple with a warm place to stay until the American Red Cross got back to them.
The apartment building used to be a beer distributor many years ago, but had since been turned into an apartment building.
About three years ago Terry Fleck owned the structure, but the current owner is Richard Wiser.
Six apartments are in the building, one is empty, which is where the Emels said they believe the fire began. They said Jeff Karg lived there until about two days ago.
Other tenants include Shirley and Dorsey Shouey, Sam Skipper, Patricia Ross and Jeff Riser and a female friend. Ross was transported to Clearfield Hospital for treatment of minor smoke inhalation by Moshannon Valley Emergency Medical Services of Philipsburg. She was treated and released. Marsha Furlong said she had spoken to Ross, who was getting an outfit at Walmart, then heading to the Furlong home.
Shirley Shouey said she and Dorsey were sleeping when Skipper pounded on the door. "He was yelling, ‘Get out, get out, there's a fire,'" she said. Shouey said they exited the building as quickly as they could. They were at a family member's home, trying to stay warm when they spoke to The Progress yesterday.
The Furlongs opened their home for all of the fire victims to take shelter until other accommodations could be made.
"I got up to make coffee just before five," Marsha Furlong said. "I saw the fire and called 911."
Others also reported the fire, including those across the street. The residents were just trying to escape and never had time to call.
"Thank God everyone got out OK," Melvin Emel said. "Thank God for the firefighters, too. We're so thankful none of them were hurt."
The Emels only resided in the building about three or four months.
Hope Fire Chief Justin Butterworth said the fire was shooting from the windows when firefighters arrived. He said they had one hydrant not working, but Pennsylvania American was on scene and there was plenty of water. A metal roof on the building hampered firefighting efforts.
Trooper Scott Swasing, state police fire marshal from Philipsburg, was on scene throughout the day trying to pinpoint a cause, but he said the investigation is continuing. But, he did say investigators are concentrating on the second floor.
The building and its contents are a total loss, but no damage estimate is available yet. No tenants had insurance, but Wiser did have insurance.
Fire companies responding included Hope and Reliance of Philipsburg, Mountain Top Fire Co. of Sandy Ridge, Chester Hill Hose Co., Morris Township Fire Co., Columbia Fire Co. of Osceola Mills, Houtzdale Fire Co., Alpha Fire Co. of State College, Clearfield Borough Fire Co., Bald Eagle Fire Co. and Port Matilda Fire Co.
Moshannon Valley EMS, the Salvation Army, the Red Cross and the borough road crew were also on scene.
Borough Code Enforcement Officer Chuck Haines said he notified Borough Manager Jan McDonald immediately that he needed help with street closings and Haines said McDonald was there quickly to help, as was the borough street crew.
A cat died in the blaze, but contrary to early reports, there was no loss of human life.
Firefighters were on scene approximately 10 hours.