Victims of fire in North Cornwall Twp. grateful no one seriously hurt

Posted by Big Rat on Campus on Sep 18, 2014 in Rat News | Subscribe

Russell Leibig had just gone to bed
Thursday night when he heard his granddaughter shout: “the house is
on fire.”

 By the time he reached the bottom of
the steps, smoke was pouring through his home on Center Street in
North Cornwall Township, and the kitchen was blazing.

“The windows were popping out. It was
just crackling and popping,” he said Friday, while standing to the
rear of what was left of his home and the three homes next to it. “It
was so fast. A couple more minutes, and we wouldn’t have made it.”

The fire destroyed four houses, left 12
people homeless, killed a dog and a cat and caused the whole block to
be evacuated overnight, according to fire officials and neighbors.
Three people, including Leibig, his granddaughter, and neighbor Bob
Hoke, were taken to 

Russell Leibig stands to the rear of his home, which was destroyed by fire Thursday night

 the hospital for smoke inhalation, but all have
been released.

Mike Yeity, state police fire marshal
from Reading, said the fire started in Hoke’s house at 1718 Center
Street and was caused by an electrical malfunction in a downstairs
room. He said it appears all four homes were destroyed.

Leibig said he was able to get his two
poodles out, and firefighters were able to salvage a safe from an
upstairs room where he kept important papers and mementoes he was
keeping for his children and grandchildren. His granddaughter lost
her cat, though, he said, and is quite upset. Pretty much everything
he owned is gone.

“These aren’t even my clothes,” he
said. “I came out with just my slippers and my jacket.”

Hoke’s dog was also killed in the
blaze, neighbors said. Neighbor Jeremy Wells said Hoke, 66, loved his
dog, and walked him in every kind of weather.

Wells was worried about his own house.
He was coming home from shopping when he saw the fire trucks and
flames. The road was blocked, so he left his vehicle and ran down the
road. His wife, two boys and four dogs got out safely, and they spent
the night sitting on a porch across the street, watching firefighters
battle the blaze.

“It went so quick, it was nothing but
a massive inferno,” he said. “The flames were 20, 30 feet
high … I was pale, about to pass out, I thought our house would be
next … It’s something I don’t ever want to see again.”

Rich Kreiser’s daughter, Chivon Short,
and her fiance Dylan Seachrist were among the victims. They got their
two children, 6 and 3, and three of their four dogs out right away,
Kreiser said, but one dog got scared and ran back inside.

“They thought he was gone,” Kreiser
said. But the dog appeared an hour and a half later, his eyes
bloodshot and showing signs of smoke inhalation, but otherwise all
right. Their little girl lost her two pet rats.

Short and Seachrist are scheduled to be
married May 5. Neighbors Jim and Joyce Beard watched the children for
a while until their grandmother came to pick them up. One of the
first things the little girl said was, “all her wedding stuff is in
the house,” according to Jim Beard.

Wells said he is glad no one was
seriously hurt, and was grateful it was not windy like it had been
the day before.

“One gust of wind would have taken
everything out,” he said.

He was grateful for all the help from
neighbors, frefighters and the Red Cross.

“Sometimes neighbors argue about
parking spaces and such, but last night it was wonderful how everyone
came together,” he said.

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