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Fire Fund established by employer to help local family

By Staff | May 14, 2013

With their dog Button, Leo and Jenny Carranza are standing in the rear of their home which was destroyed by a fire that occurred on April 11 on Bennett Street in Picture Rocks. Because of its historical significance, the family is restoring the home. There was no homeowners insurance while the home is in probate as an inheritance. A Family Fire Fund has been established at Muncy Bank and Trust to help the family.

PICTURE ROCKS – It was a fateful night in April when the Carranza family who live on Bennett Street in Picture Rocks woke up to a house filled with smoke, and escaped without harm from a burning fire that destroyed just about everything they have. According to the report submitted by Fire Chief Alan Little, who arrived on the scene shortly after 1:30 a.m., April 12, heavy fire consumed the rear of the home at a back porch, and soon aggressively spread to the main house.

The fire was brought under control in a relatively short period of time,” but not before doing a considerable amount of damage,” said Chief Little. The entire back of the structure was destroyed completely and the rest of the home sustained a considerable amount of heat and smoke damage with an estimated excess of over $200,000.

The Carranza’s had no home insurance. They were using the enclosed porch area to keep chicks warm that were in a cardboard box with a heat lamp which was believed to have started the fire. Jenny Carranza said she discovered the fire because she heard a weird noise and went to see what it was. She then told her husband, Leo, and daughter, Faith to get out of the house immediately. Faith took their dog, Button, outside and called 911 on her cell phone. Leo rescued their pet parrot, put him in the car, then proceeded to the house to start putting out the fire, but the burning flames were too much and caused him some injuries. Jenny said the smoke was so bad they couldn’t breathe. “We didn’t have homeowner’s insurance, because we couldn’t afford it. I am only able to work part time and our health insurance is very costly,” she reported to the Luminary.

Jenny is a job coach with Blast Intermediate Unit and Leo works full time at Weis in Muncy in the maintenance department. He also works an additional 15 hours a week for Susquehanna Health. Faith is a senior at Hughesville and after graduation in June, she is planning on attending Penn State’s main campus in the fall where she will be majoring in biochemistry. “She hopes to be a doctor,” said her mother. “She only missed one day of school because of the fire.” Faith is now staying with friends and her parents are living in a very small trailer on the property that was loaned to them by friends until they are finished restoring their home.

The family insists on doing the renovation work, as the home has significant historical value. Jenny says she remembers hearing stories from her family about hiding slaves in the home before the Civil War. “I’m sure it was part of the underground railroad,” she said, and pointed to pathways constructed of stone that ran through the foundation of the home. They discovered them while excavating part of the home’s rear exterior. “After seeing how the house was constructed, it’s pretty obvious where they hid people,” Jenny said. The home has always remained in her family and she and Leo are compelled to restore it as much as possible. Much of the interior had to be gutted and cleared, but the structure is intact, the walls are thick, hand constructed of hardwood from the mid 1880’s. There was also a big barn on the property but records show that was burned down in the 80’s.

Fortunately some deeds and records were spared that were stored in a room to the far east of the home facing the front where the least amount of damage occurred. The Carranza’s were waiting to acquire the 8 acre property as part of an inheritance and it is currently in probate. Jenny is a descendant of William Derrick, and was told that her grandfather, Ralph Derrick worked for Bell Laboratories where he invented a type of mobile phone that was originally used on battlegrounds during World War II. Jenny said she also found a patent for a lathe. “He was an inventor, and he made a defibrillator for Muncy Hospital.” This is their only home and the couple is determined to bring it back to its original splendor.

Coming to the rescue is Betty Cheshier from Muncy. She is Leo’s supervisor at Weis and her compassion guided her to help the family. “They are the nicest people,” she said and gave Leo two weeks off to spend time working on the home. “I knew it wouldn’t be enough,” replied Chesier who later sought a FAMILY FIRE FUND in the Carranza name at Muncy Bank and Trust. Starting with donations from employees at Weis, an account was opened so more support could be added to help the Carranza’s who are in need of many materials and fixtures. Chesier is also distributing posters in surrounding areas seeking help in any way. “These are hard working people, and I really want to support them,” she said. “You have a tendency to help people you know well. Leo does his work way beyond the call of duty, and has such high hopes of restoring all this.”

This Saturday a crew from Friends Church in Hughesville will be assisting in rebuilding part of the home upstairs so the family can have a place to sleep and wash. “I would just love to have a running sink again,” said Jenny. “We are grateful that just about every day someone has stopped by to help in some way,” said the Carranza’s. Leo explained that the beginning process included a lot of clean up, ripping out walls and ceilings, scrubbing woodwork, and cleaning floors. “Now we need to replace the walls,” he said. “What we need most is plumbing and electrical work.” Rags and multi-surface cleaning agents are also needed. Fresh house paint, indoor and outdoor, and the primer, plus dry wall and insulation are all needed, as they are working from the inside out. The construction permits cost $70 each, and there are three of them. “Money is tight,” Jenny added.

“The Weis employees have been incredible, bringing us food, money and plenty of clothes,” said the Carranza’s who have especially enjoyed the pizzas. Monetary donations can be made to the Carranza Family Fire Fund, Muncy Bank and Trust Company, P.O. Box 179, Muncy, PA 17756-0179, or to help out with labor or other needed items and materials, contact Jenny at 570-494-8874.

The NFPA reports that each day an average of 7 people die from home fires in the U.S. Cooking equipment remains the leading cause of home structure fires and injuries.