By Marcia Moore
The Daily Item
PORT TREVORTON — Keller Marine & RV owners say they’ll rebuild after a six-alarm fire destroyed the main warehouse and millions of dollars worth of inventory this morning.
Nearly two dozen volunteer fire companies from Snyder, Northumberland, Union and Perry counties were called in to battle the inferno that began at about 8:35 a.m. as contractors were repairing the roof of the 55-year-old family business at 2712 Main St. owned by G. Michael Keller.
“Everybody is safe. That’s what matters,” said his wife, Michelle Keller, shivering beneath a white towel provided by an emergency responder.
She huddled with employees throughout the morning, often in prayer, and expressed gratitude to residents, local businesses and churches that offered food and refreshments to firefighters and company employees.
“Yes, there’s a bad fire going on, but people need to know how wonderful people are in this area,” Keller said. “We are so thankful.”
Her son, Michael T. Keller, said he got a text message from his mother at 8:45 a.m. while he was attending classes at Susquehanna University in nearby Selinsgrove.
“She told me to pray,” he said.
Michael Keller immediately drove to Port Trevorton and spotted the smoke from the fire several miles away.
John Fisher, an employee of 41 years, said one of the company’s 75 employees called 911 to report the fire as he and several others tried to put it out on their own, to no avail.
“We used every fire extinguisher we could find, but it was up in the roof,” he said as flames and plumes of thick, black smoke billowed from the building more than 90 minutes later.
Battling the blaze was made even more difficult because of the many walls inside as a result of several additions made throughout the years, Fisher said.
Firefighters were evacuated from the burning building an hour after they arrived when an exterior wall collapsed. It took about five hours to contain the blaze, Snyder County Emergency Services Director Derrick Shambach said.
North- and southbound traffic on Routes 11-15 in the vicinity was shut down for several hours to make it easy for tankers to get water from the nearby Susquehanna River used to extinguish the blaze and electricity in the area was shut down.
Fisher, a buyer for Keller, said millions of dollars worth of boat and recreational vehicle accessories was stored in the 20,000 square-foot building in preparation for the start of the busy summer season. According to the company website, about 20,000 boat and recreational vehicle parts and accessories are kept in stock.
“This won’t be an instant fix,” he said.
Shaking his head as he watched his workplace burn to the ground, 23-year employee Dale Kratzer said, “It’s just destroyed.”
Shambach said the fire was not only big in size but in impact to the community.
“A lot of people work there. This will have a huge affect on the community,” he said.
Michael Keller said the business started by his great-grandparents more than one-half century ago will be rebuilt.
“If Mike says they’re going to rebuilt, they will,” Fisher said.