Aug. 08--CARBONDALE -- A neighbor with a ladder saved a woman from her burning house early Friday morning, then quickly raced to the hospital when his wife went into labor.
The large fire ripped through two Carbondale homes, causing heavy damage to each, but all five people got out safely. Gesturing in front of the blackened buildings Friday afternoon, Pennsylvania State Police Fire Marshal John Chervanka said he had eliminated all accidental causes. The fire has been ruled an arson.
Marie Michalek, 44, lived with her family in the home at 25 Wayne St. which was a charred husk Friday afternoon. While the fire blazed at about 3:30 a.m., she kicked out a second-floor window and stepped out onto the roof with her Chihuahua mix Buddy under an arm. Waiting for her there was an across-the-street neighbor, holding a ladder.
"I've never spoken to him, don't even know his name," Mrs. Michalek said hours later standing in a neighbor's yard across the street from her burnt home, choking back tears. One of her nostrils was still black from smoke.
After she and Buddy were clear, her savior introduced himself as Tom, but then had to hustle to get his stress-induced wife to the delivery room. Other neighbors didn't know the man's name either, saying he was relatively new to the area.
Mrs. Michalek's husband and daughter, who escaped out of first floor doors were also in the hospital with minor concerns due to smoke inhalation, she said.
The fire began in a shed between the two homes, the fire marshal said. Eight firefighting companies answered the 911 call and doused the flames by about 5:30 a.m., Carbondale Fire Chief Chris Pezak said.
The second home involved was a duplex at 145-147 Eighth Avenue, and the unit closest to the fire's origin was vacant. Had it been occupied, the fire might have claimed some lives, he said.
John and Evelyn Barbaro, who said they have lived in the unit on the far side of the fire since 1977, were able to escape with their pet bird when a neighbor warned them by pounding on their door. They sat on the porch of their damaged home Friday afternoon and wondered aloud if their home of 37 years was salvageable.
At 25 Wayne St., the fire caused the roof to cave in, which likely means it will be a total loss, the fire marshal said.
"I'm just glad everybody's safe. It's terrible to lose your home, but everybody keeps saying you have your family and that's all that matters." Mrs. Michalek said. "They're right."
Contact the writer: email@example.com, @pcameronTT on Twitter
Copyright 2014 - The Times-Tribune, Scranton, Pa.