Two left homeless after Gallitzin fire

GALLITZIN – A Sunday evening fire that reignited early Monday morning left two homeless, according to fire department officials, with a half-dozen fire crews having worked overnight before finally extinguishing the flames.

A Cambria County Emergency Services supervisor said the call came in about 8:45 p.m. Sunday, with Gallitzin, Cresson and Ashville fire departments responding to a fire at a home along the 600 block of Howell Street.

Gallitzin Fire Company Chief Mike Sanders said firefighters originally believed they were responding to an entrapment but arrived to find that the homeowner was in the hospital at the time the fire started and a second occupant had gotten out safely, Sanders said.

“There was heavy fire and smoke on the [front-right] corner of the structure,” Sanders said. “The way the house was built, they had remodeled it several times. … It was really hard getting through.”

He said crews believe the fire started near a wood burner or chimney flue, but an investigation is ongoing.

“There’s so much damage, it’s hard right now to determine what the cause was,” he said.

A second alarm went out soon after, summoning Lilly, Patton and Portage fire companies.

Sanders said crews believed they had put out the flames when it reignited, forcing firefighters back to the scene a little after 3 a.m. Monday.

“The way the building was constructed, the fire stayed in the walls,” Sanders said. “We thought we had it out, but it worked its way back up.”

Firefighters worked until after 9 a.m. to make sure the fire would not reignite, he said, adding that there were no injures and all six companies worked together.

“Everybody did an excellent job,” he said.

A Penelec worker was at the house Monday afternoon removing disconnected wires from the home.

A borough worker also was there, working to shut off water service after a pipe burst during or after the fire started, causing water to gush at the home for hours.

Sanders said the house is a total loss, but he believes the homeowner has insurance.

And while the Red Cross has been contacted to provide supplies and services, community members are pitching in, as well, to the help the man recoup his losses.