Explosion levels Philipsburg home|
Friday, October 5, 2012
By Terry Whetstone Staff Writer
PHILIPSBURG - An explosion of unknown origin rocked downtown Philipsburg yesterday, destroyed a home and sent a woman to the hospital via medical helicopter.
The fire started at approximately 1:30 p.m. at the intersection of North Sixth Street and East Pine Street, across the street from the Philipsburg-Osceola Mills Junior High School where students were outside for gym class.
Teacher Tim McCamley said the explosion rocked the entire school. Students were immediately evacuated and were sent to the Moshannon Valley YMCA.
McCamley and fellow teacher Cory Wood were both outside and saw the resident from the home running from the fire. He said they helped her first to the back of a vehicle at the school, but the heat and smoke got so intense they moved her to the front of the school, and that is where members of Moshannon Valley Emergency Medical Services found her.
Reports from neighbors at the scene said the resident was Wendy Sue Sharpless and they said she lived alone.
She was transported to the former Philipsburg Area Hospital by ambulance then flown to Mercy Hospital in Pittsburgh with severe burns.
McCamley said he and Wood then raced to another home, right beside the Sharpless home, and tried to get that resident to leave but she refused.
That resident, again identified by neighbors, was Shirley Lewis. She did not want to leave her home, even though it was on fire. The Pennsylvania State Police arrived on scene and pulled Lewis from her home, exiting through a back door.
While they were doing that, maintenance was calling in the fire.
Jeff "Skinner" Harris, department chief of Philipsburg Fire Department, said he was just topping Port Matilda Mountain on U.S. Route 322 when the call was dispatched and he could see the thick plume of smoke rising through the air.
Harris said three homes were damaged by the fire; the first, where the fire originated, was a total loss, the home to the left when facing from the junior high, was damaged as the siding melted off of it and the third home, the Lewis home, sustained significant damage when the fire got into the second floor and worked into the roof area.
Harris said the other two families are displaced, aside from Sharpless, and trees were also on fire when firefighters arrived.
The state police fire marshal was on scene trying to determine a cause. Harris said at 8:30 p.m. yesterday, crews were still on scene. He said a majority of the home was in the middle of the street as heavy machinery was brought in to sift through the debris. He said the state police K-9 unit was also on scene assisting with the investigation.
All three homes were insured, but no damage estimate was available.
Harris said there was a quick response by all companies called and he said the only big problem was when the home collapsed.
"We really need to thank the junior high, the employees, the staff and the students for all of their help," Sandra Foster, corporate manager of MVEMS said. "They provided water, Gatorade, ice and moral support. This just shows that Philipsburg residents pull together in a time need."
Approximately 50-75 firefighters were on scene from Hope and Reliance fire companies in Philipsburg, Mountain Top Fire Co. of Sandy Ridge, Chester Hill Hose Co., Houtzdale Fire Co., Columbia Fire Co. of Osceola Mills, Clearfield Borough Fire Co., Morris Township Fire Co. of Morrisdale, Citizens Fire Co. of Milesburg, Undine Fire Co. of Bellefonte and Port Matilda Fire Co.
Firefighters were also assisted by MVEMS, Mountain Top Fire Co. Ambulance, the American Red Cross, Stat MedEvac Helicopter, borough employees, Penelec and the gas company.
Harris said there were no other injuries at the fire and firefighters were rehabilitated by EMS crews on scene.
He also noted the school district did a great job evacuating the school and keeping the students safe.