NEW ENTERPRISE - When Southern Cove firefighter Denny Bayer's pager went off with a call shortly before 3 a.m. Wednesday, he looked out his window.
Flames had already burst through the roof of the nearby house at 404 Chestnut St., New Enterprise, the burning home visible even to neighboring fire companies miles away.
By dawn, the house had burned to the ground. A pile of debris atop a stone foundation was all that remained. The family of four, who escaped, were left homeless.
Mirror photo by J.D. Cavrich
A fire at 404 Chestnut St., New Enterprise, that began in the rear of the house shortly before 3 a.m. Wednesday left a family of four and their two dogs homeless and leveled the structure within 2 1/2 hours.
"They lost everything," Bayer, an engine captain, said. "Something like this is always hard. But when it's one of your neighbors ... "
It's not clear what caused the fire, but it began in the rear of the house and leveled the structure within 2 1/2 hours.
The Eshelman family - two parents, a teenage son and a little girl - got out with their two dogs but little else, next-door neighbor Beverly Ross said.
"They were in their bare feet," Ross said.
She said the Eshelmans woke her soon after the fire began, warning her to flee in case the flames spread to her house just a few yards away.
John Eshelman works at the Wal-Mart Distribution Center in Bedford, Ross said; his wife, Sara, had worked as a technician at UPMC Bedford Memorial. They'd lived in the house for several years, Ross said.
The Southern Alleghenies Chapter of the American Red Cross workers provided clothing and storage containers for the family, spokeswoman Kathy Smyser said.
Ross said the family is staying with a relative nearby.
Shrubs in Ross's yard were singed and brown Wednesday morning; homes across the street bore visibly melted plastic siding. The heat shattered windows on the family's car.
A hunting rifle was left in the rubble, its stock turned to charcoal.
As the Eshelmans' house collapsed, its three-story chimney fell across the street, Bayer said.
At Midday Wednesday, a bus marked "Waco Baptist Church" pulled up to the Eshelman home. Passenger Ryan Miller said the group, from Martinsburg, had come to pray for the family.
"We just wanted them to know that we're here for them," Miller said.
Bayer looked over the rubble Wednesday, returning eight hours after he first received the call.
"I've seen a lot of this in 45 years. A lot," he said. "And it doesn't get any easier."