The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

November 16, 2012

Northumberland man and dog escape safely from burning home

By Rick Dandes and Francis Scarcella
The Daily Item

— NORTHUMBERLAND — Bad luck has struck again for a Point Township man who lost his home on Duke Street on Thursday morning to a fire of unknown origins.

Twenty months ago, the same man, Robert Whary, who then was living in Sunbury, lost everything he owned in his home on Susquehanna Avenue when an extension cord caught on fire.

On Thursday, Whary was upstairs in his house at 2048 Duke St. when he smelled smoke in the basement.

Once downstairs, he said he was assaulted by smoke and flames and just had time to save himself and his pet dog.

He couldn’t save his pet bird, however.

As enormous, bright orange flames ripped through his home, Whary pulled out his keys to make a dash into the downstairs garage to save his Toyota Prius, but firefighters would not let him enter the building.

The car was destroyed in the fire, along with most everything else inside the house.

As the blaze got stronger and flames and smoke soared into the air, neighbors gathered in shock as popping sounds similar to fireworks went off in the home, possibly from ammunition for his gun collection.

“It’s a complete loss,” George Geise, deputy chief of the Tuckahoe Fire Company, Point Township, said later in the day.

Geise said a state police fire marshal would examine the ruins today and determine the cause of the blaze.

“It took us about an hour to put it out,” he said.

Geise said that he was close by when the first alarm sounded just before noon.

“We got their quickly, but within minutes, the flames shot out through the house, it was fully engaged and we really couldn’t save it,” he said. “Even if we had gotten their quicker, it wouldn’t have made a difference, I believe.”

Geise could not provide a damage estimate. Whary owned the home and lived there alone.

After Whary smelled the smoke, Geise said: “When he went downstairs, he was assaulted by the smoke. Luckily, he got outside. When the flames escaped through the roof, it was like that whole area was a chimney, flames shooting upward.”

After the fire broke out, Bob Ciotti, Whary’s next-door neighbor, started spraying water at both the Whary house and his own dwelling in an effort to prevent sparks from reaching his home and igniting it.

“What a shame,” Ciotti said, shaking his head. “Besides the Prius, there were two motorcycles in the garage that were lost. And upstairs he had some nice guns that he couldn’t save.”

Assisting the Tuckahoe Fire Company were fire and rescue personnel from Upper Augusta, Northumberland, Lewisburg and Mahoning Township.

American Red Cross volunteers provided Whary with food and will follow up to determine additional needs.