The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

December 19, 2012

Fire destroys musical instruments at Watsontown studio

By Ashley Wislock
The Daily Item

HARRISBURG — WATSONTOWN — Looking over the seven soot-covered and burnt instruments that remain in his music studio, John Ravert on Tuesday was able to maintain his optimism, two days after a fire caused $500,000 in damage.

“All this stuff can be replaced,” he said. “We all got out.”

Early Sunday morning, Ravert, a church organist at Crossroads Church of the Nazarene and piano teacher, said his wife, Roberta, was awakened by what she thought was one of their dogs chewing on something.

Ravert investigated and saw flames shooting from his studio.

“I told her, ‘The studio’s on fire! We’re going to lose the house! Call 911!’” he said.

Firefighters arrived, contained the blaze to the studio and quickly extinguished the flames, but told Ravert the fire was within minutes of becoming unmanageable, he said.

The blaze started after the motor of a player piano that Ravert and his wife were listening to as they fell asleep overheated and caught its sound board on fire, he said.

Ravert, his wife and their two dogs were able to escape the blaze. One dog had to be treated for breathing issues, but will be fine, Ravert said.

However, during a walkthrough to survey the damage, the stress proved to be too much for Ravert’s wife, who suffered a minor heart attack.

“She just said, ‘I have to sit down,’” he said.

However, Ravert said she is in good condition and is expected to return home today.

“We’re very blessed,” he said.

Ravert’s collection of restored and custom-built nickelodeons, player pianos and other instruments was devastated by the blaze. The nickelodeons will have to be taken apart and redone.

Ravert’s practice organ is a total loss and several concert pianos will also have to be extensively repaired, if they can be saved at all, he said.

Ravert could not estimate how much damage was done to the collection.

“I have no clue,” he said. “It’s a lot.”

The Warrior Run Area Fire Department, which responded to the call, estimated the structural damage at $100,000 and the contents at $400,000.

But Ravert said his church community has been supportive throughout the family’s ordeal.

“They have come and offered help,” he said. “They’ve been really good to our family.”