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    Default who knows what you will find.....

    Croc-like critter, other creatures caught in conflagration




    Gina Zotti , Staff Writer 02/05/2004




    WEST WHITELAND -- Firefighters are used to facing obstacles when arriving at the scene of a blaze.

    Tuesday night was a whole other ballgame.

    A pickup truck had slammed into a tree. The unrelated accident added to the confusion. Strike one.

    Cold weather meant icy conditions at the house’s driveway. Firefighters had to pull the lines down from the apparatus parked in the street. Strike two.

    A fully involved fire when authorities arrived. Breaking windows and a collapsing roof. Strike three.

    "I said, ‘What could possibly happen next?’ Then she said about her pets and mentioned an alligator," said West Whiteland Fire Chief Bud Turner. "I thought, ‘We’re in for a long night.’"

    Turner said space heaters to warm the animals plugged into extension cords and power strips and eventually into a single bathroom outlet sparked the blaze when it overloaded.

    "Four oil heaters were plugged into a 20-foot extension cord into a power strip with six more plugs in it to an extension cord to another room to two heaters into a single outlet in the bathroom," he explained as the cause of the blaze.

    Noreen Ransom, who owned the home in the 1300 block of Burke Road, was the only person in the single ranch house around 9:21 p.m. Tuesday. She was not injured.

    In addition to the five-foot-long caiman -- a crocodilian reptile similar to an alligator -- dogs, cats, gerbils, hamsters, rabbits, turtles, parakeets, cockatoos and perhaps other animals also lived in the house, officials and Ransom said.

    "I have to keep the animals safe. I can’t have them running outside," Ransom said.

    She said she used her cordless phone to call 911 and got outside.

    "Me and my three dogs got out. Everything else was ruined," Ransom said.

    "I got out just in time. The roof started coming down. It was quite an experience," she said. "In 15 minutes, the whole house started caving."

    Ransom said the large animal found in the bathtub was a five-foot-long iguana.

    "Definitely not an iguana," Turner said. "I said, ‘We found the dogs and everything.’ And she said, ‘Did you find the alligator?’"

    Turner said firefighters carried out two small dogs from the blaze. Another was tied to a chain out back. About 10 to 15 cats he estimated "typically, hopefully, scattered," he said.

    "She initially didn’t tell us about the alligator," Turner said. "Then I had to give them (firefighters) the heads-up that they might run into the alligator. That’s a first to warn them to watch."

    Turner said based on the condition of the house, firefighters didn’t hold up much hope of finding any of the animals inside alive.

    "I had no shortage of volunteers to go into a fully involved house fire, but when I asked for a volunteer to go find an alligator I thought I was alone," Turner said.

    West Whiteland firefighter Susan Smith stepped up to the task to reach in the tub of water and debris and retrieve the boiled reptile.

    On Wednesday, when fire crews arrived to put out a flare-up, they "didn’t hear any racket" of any other animals, Turner said. Attempts by firefighters to page the SPCA Tuesday night were unsuccessful.

    The saved dogs went with Ransom to Downingtown where she is currently staying with her son.

    The first report of the fire came from a police officer who had arrived at the scene to a report of a pickup truck into a tree due to the icy roads. Turner said that must have been at the same time that Ransom called 911 for help.

    Firefighters arrived to find Ransom standing in the driveway.

    The driveway had not been plowed of snow. Turner said he couldn’t pull the apparatus up the long driveway to the house.

    "We couldn’t take the fire truck up. We had to pull the hose up the icy driveway," he said.

    At the same time, the unrelated pickup into the tree caused another distraction to the fire crews.

    "The fire had really taken hold of the building," Turner said. Initially, firefighters went for an interior attack but then out to back down to a defensive attack, staying outside to avoid injury. It took about 45 minutes to get the blaze under control.

    Damage was estimated at $150,000 on the building and $75,000 on the contents. The building was destroyed.

    West Whiteland was assisted at the scene by West Chester and Downingtown fire companies. Good Fellowship Ambulance and Medic 91 also helped at the scene. Lionville Fire Company worked on standby.

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    Then she said about her pets and mentioned an alligator," said West Whiteland Fire Chief Bud Turner. "I thought, ‘We’re in for a long night.’"
    Yep. You have to think things are about to go bad when they warn you about the alligator.

    One more thing
    "I had no shortage of volunteers to go into a fully involved house fire, but when I asked for a volunteer to go find an alligator I thought I was alone," Turner said.

    West Whiteland firefighter Susan Smith stepped up to the task to reach in the tub of water and debris and retrieve the boiled reptile.
    First though: Bunch of wusses, let the girl show them up.

    Second thought: She belongs with that Women of the Tundra bunch that posts here!

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