I would like to say, "Only in NE Pennsylvania"...but I have to believe stranger things have happened.

Pet alligator saved from fire; firefighter injured
The Times Leader, Wilkes-Barre, Pa. (January 5, 2008)

Jan. 5--WEST WYOMING -- A firefighter was injured while battling a blaze at a home on West Brady Street where a 4-foot long pet alligator was rescued.

Fred Sokoloski, owner of 68 W. Brady St., said he was awakened at about 1:30 a.m. when he heard the clanging of steam heat pipes inside his home and noticed smoke throughout the first floor.

"I opened up the basement door and the smoke was just unbelievable," Sokoloski said.

Sokoloski, 32, and his wife, Kelly, 30, rushed outside. A tenant on the second floor and his dog also managed to escape unharmed.

Mike Kuharchik, fire chief for West Wyoming Hose Co. No. 2, said the alligator named Fat Boy was in a cage on the first floor. The floor began to collapse when Kuharchik said he cut the lock to the cage and Sokoloski grabbed the alligator and wrapped it in a blanket.

"He (Sokoloski) had the floor strengthened to support the weight of the pool. If it wasn't for those supports, the floor would have collapsed," Kuharchik said.

The reptile's cage contained a pool of water that started to heat up, Sokoloski said.

"(Firefighters) said the (pool) water was near the boiling point," he said.

Sokoloski said he's had the alligator for eight years. Fat Boy was placed in a whirlpool tub inside the home of neighbor Judy Perdikis.

A firefighter from the Exeter Park Volunteer Fire Department was injured when a section of the first floor collapsed into the basement. The firefighter, whose name was not released, and two other firefighters were hurrying to get out when the floor gave way, Exeter Park fire Chief Dave Gutowski said.

"There was an order to (evacuate) the building and when they were getting out, the floor somewhat tilted and he went through," Gutowski said.

Kuharchik said the air pack on the firefighter's back prevented the firefighter from completely falling into the basement.

"The two firefighters with him pulled him out," Gutowski said.

The injured firefighter suffered bruises and minor burns to his legs. He was taken to Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center in Plains Township where he was released at about 6:30 a.m., Gutowski said.

"He was up and walking around, even driving his car," Gutowski said.

Kuharchik said the fire quickly spread from the basement to the attic due to the home's balloon construction -- a type of framing where studs extend from the sill to the roof.

The structure sustained heavy fire damage. Firefighters used battery-operated saws to cut away the exterior walls to reach hot spots.

The frigid temperatures played a role in fighting the fire, Kuharchik said.

A firefighter slipped on ice, water in hoses iced up and runoff from the fire turned into ice on the road.

West Wyoming road crews spread salt to melt the ice.

Sokoloski and his wife are staying with family.

State police Deputy Fire Marshal Ron Jarocha was at the scene for much of Friday investigating the cause