Pennsylvania Firefighters Narrowly Escape Fatal Blaze

April 8, 2008
Several of the firefighters were forced to run, sliding down a ladder in a hasty retreat.


Firefighters risked their lives Monday in a desperate race to rescue a man trapped inside a Montgomery County home.

But the flames were just too much. Several of the firefighters were forced to run, sliding down a ladder in a hasty retreat.

The fire left the Los Angeles Avenue home gutted and claimed the life of a 43-year-old man, who lived in there with his mother and grandmother. Police said they were not home at the time.

Police said they are withholding the man's name as some family has yet to be notified.

The fire went through the home at about 11:30 a.m. Monday. Investigators said there was an explosion and then flames shot almost 30 feet into the air.

"I heard a big explosion. It sounded like a big garage door dropping, but it was massive. You could feel the vibrations," said Perran Davis, of Abington.

Davis, who was one of several neighbors who heard the bang, ran over with his handheld camera and captured images of the billowing smoke.

Davis also got footage of the rescue crews trying to save them man. They finally got him out, but it was too late. He was pronounced dead at the hospital.

"This is a close-knit community. We all pretty much know each other. We care about each other, and it's hard," Davis said.

Loved ones were hit the hardest. One woman was visibly distraught as she got to the scene.

Ron Whetstone was struggling, too. He was one of the first to get to the scene and tried to save the man before rescue crews arrived.

"Me and a couple other people actually tried to pull all of the windows out, break the glass out and had a hold of his arm. We tried to pull him up and out," Whetstone said. "??????We couldn't. He had lost consciousness, and we couldn't get him up."

Investigators said the fire started in the back of the house. They are still trying to figure out the cause.

In the meantime, the Abington neighborhood has been left with a lot of shock and grief.

"It's horrifying. I mean, it's scary to think that you could just be in house fine one day, and then it could explode," neighbor Suzy Troemel.

Several fire crews from Abington and surrounding communities responded to try and put out the blaze, and some were still at the scene at about 4 p.m. putting out hotspots and securing the burned-out residence.

The investigation has been delayed because the house was left structurally unsound. Authorities said they do not believe the fire was arson, NBC 10's Kristen Welker reported.

The American Red Cross was also at the scene assisting the man's relatives and neighbors who were out of their homes.

Copyright 2008 by All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Voice Your Opinion!

To join the conversation, and become an exclusive member of Firehouse, create an account today!