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Picture Rocks family displaced by fire

By Staff | Jan 15, 2020

Knocking holes in the roof in order to release a build up of toxic gases and smoke, volunteers from multiple area fire companies worked together to extinguish the Jan. 9 house fire in Picture Rocks. All four occupants escaped the blaze, which is believed to have started by a lit candle.

PICTURE ROCKS – With fire quickly engulfing a second-floor bedroom, Jonathan and Ariel Drummond grabbed their two children last Thursday afternoon, Jan. 9 and safely escaped their home along Route 220.

Investigators believe the fire on the 8900 block of Route 220 was likely started by a lit candle on a dresser in the bedroom, according to Cpl. Nicholas Loffredo, a state police fire marshal, and Alan Little, a Picture Rocks assistant fire chief.

More than 20,000 gallons of water were poured on the two-story wood-plank home and firefighters fought the extra-alarm blaze for at least 90 minutes before bringing it under control.

When Picture Rocks firemen arrived on the scene shortly after 1 p.m., flames were shooting out from a second-floor front window and smoke had enveloped much of the home.

One team of firefighters donned self-contained breathing apparatus, entered the house and stretched hoses to the second floor.

Another team – a group of volunteers operating an aerial truck from Muncy Area – worked to knock holes in the roof so that a build up of toxic smoke and heated gases in the house could be ventilated from the home.

“The interior crew had knocked down a lot of the fire on the second floor. We thought we had it, but then the fire spread to the attic. Smoke conditions were so bad they couldn’t find a way to the attic,” Little said.

Little ordered everyone out of the house and off the roof at about 1:40 p.m.

An air horn from a fire truck was sounded several times in case some firefighters did not hear the command over their radios. The sounding of the air horn is the universal signal in the fire service for firemen to evacuate a burning building.

“We were starting to have structural collapse of the attic into the second floor,” Little explained.

Flames suddenly shot through the roof as Muncy Area firemen scrambled to get off it.

“About 15 to 20 minutes later, we were able to re-enter the house and continue to douse hot spots, but only after we could exhaust enough smoke out of the structure so we could see what we were doing,” Little said.

Tankers from Hughesville, Lairdsville, Clinton Township, Montgomery, Muncy Valley, Eagles Mere and Mildred shuttled water to the scene. Lycoming County tankers pulled water from a hydrant in Hughesville while Sullivan County units drafted water from Muncy Creek.

Route 220 was closed in both directions until just after 5 p.m.

The local chapter of the American Red Cross was helping the couple with emergency assistance.

Loffredo, who was at the scene, said the fire was accidental and the home was a total loss.

Nearly 700 PPL Electric Utilities customers in the Picture Rocks area were without power, which was restored by 5 p.m.