Pa. chief on collapse: 'It was like in slow motion'

Four firefighters were injured when the floor gave way; two are in fair condition and two were released from the hospital

The Citizens' Voice

CARBONDALE, Pa. — His face streaked black with ash, Carbondale Fire Chief Chris Pezak stood near the smoldering house at 96 Fallbrook St. and talked about the collapse that left four firefighters injured Monday afternoon.

He and at least two other firefighters were working on the second floor of the home putting out the hot spots that remained after they had extinguished the main blaze, a process known as overhaul.

Then the floor collapsed.

"It was like in slow motion," Pezak said. "It started just crumbling. The floor just went out. I fell down; I wound up underneath. I don't know how I ended up underneath, and that's how I met the two firemen that were trapped."

The floor formed an angle when it landed on the bottom floor, he said, and William Walker Hose Co. volunteer firefighters Brandon Allan, 23, and Greg Davis, 32, were caught in the smaller part of the void.

Pezak said he immediately got to work pulling one of them out.

"When I tugged on him, he wasn't saying anything," he said. "He was unconscious, definitely. Then when I pulled him a little more, he started moaning. It was a good sign he was alive."

Allan and Davis suffered torso injuries and were taken to Geisinger Community Medical Center. Geisinger spokeswoman Westyn Hinchey said the two were in fair condition Monday afternoon and would be kept there overnight.

According to Pezak, the collapse also injured Carbondale firefighter Bob Wright and his son, Steve Wright. Both were brought to Regional Hospital of Scranton, where they were treated and released, he said.

"It could have been really, really worse," he said. "I mean, these guys could have died. There's no doubt in my mind."

The fire claimed one life: a little, white dog named Scooter. He was the only one home when the fire started.

Scooter was the beloved pet of Hope Fogarty, who has lived at 96 Fallbrook St. for 13 years. He was a 3-year-old rescue animal she had adopted from Dessin Animal Shelter in Honesdale. Nobody had wanted him because of his broken leg, she said, but she loved him.

About an hour before the floor collapsed and injured the firefighters, tongues of flame poked through the roof of Fogarty's house while she waited for news of Scooter.

"I hope my doggy's OK," she said. "That's all I care about."

For a little while, it seemed like he might be OK. Carbondale firefighter Brandon Shearer carried his ash-stained body from the home and placed it in an ambulance. Emergency medical staff performed CPR on the tiny chest.

Hours later, Fogarty learned he had died after suffering smoke inhalation. "We're very sad. He was part of our family," she said.

She asked for the prayers of the community but said she would be all right in the long run. She said she has insurance and a good job as a real estate agent in Lake Harmony. For now, she's staying at a hotel in Carbondale.

Pezak said this fire was "very stubborn." Based on what he saw, he thinks the main fire started in the basement and came up through the separation between the outer wall and the interior drywall.

"We were shocked with what we found, with the fire just coming out through all different areas," he said.

He said a fire marshal with the Pennsylvania State Police is investigating.

"We're going to get to the bottom of this because we've got guys hurt," he said.

Pezak said around 5:40 p.m., Carbondale firefighters went back to the property to put out some smaller fires that had rekindled.

Copyright 2013 The Citizens' Voice
All Rights Reserved

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