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Timing right for firefighter to get woman, 84, out of burning house

| Wednesday, July 23, 2014, 4:12 p.m.
Jim Ference | The Valley Independent
Firefighters from Bentleyville remove their gear after battling an attic fire at this house on 5th street in Charleroi on Tuesday, July 22, 2014.

An elderly Charleroi woman who was unaware her house was burning Tuesday afternoon, escaped quickly and unharmed, thanks to a bit of luck.

Doug Prentice Sr., the Charleroi Volunteer Fire Department's second assistant chief, was walking his dogs around 4 p.m. when he smelled smoke.

Prentice got into his car and found the source of the odor: the 804 Fifth St. residence of Lorraine Brown, 84.

“As soon as I got there, there was a brownish-white smoke coming from the roof,” Prentice said. “I radioed 911, then started banging on the door to see if she was there, because I knew she has been there for a good many years.

“Then I ran around to the front and started banging on that door.”

Prentice said Brown, who was upstairs when he arrived, finally emerged from a rear door that faces Blythe Way. Firefighters arrived soon after and were able to douse the attic fire by using two large hoses.

“I said, ‘You need to get out of here because your house is on fire,'” Prentice said. “She had smelled the smoke, but she thought it was coming from the outside, that someone was burning something.

“When I went into the house, there was no evidence that there was a fire because everything was up in the attic and roof.”

Brown's daughter, Jodi Shuback, said her mother was physically fine but shaken up. Shuback said her mother has lived in the residence for 49 years.

Prentice said the fire appeared to be electrical in nature and the flames were contained to the inside of the attic walls. From ground level, a hole through a portion of the roof was visible through the front upstairs window.

“There was a lot of insulation we had to go through. That was the worst part because that stuff just smolders,” Prentice said. “There were wires where the fire was at, but that's not our expertise. The state police fire marshal will verify the findings (Wednesday).”

No firefighters required treatment despite the 90-degree heat.

The Charleroi, Lock Four and Stockdale fire departments responded to the fire. Charleroi Regional Police, the Bentleyville Rapid Intervention Unit and Mon Valley Emergency Medical Services also responded.

Prentice said he was fortunate to be in the right place at the right time.

“I guess it worked out OK. If that would've happened later at night ... I don't know,” Prentice said. “Timing is everything.”

Rick Bruni Jr. is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at or 724-684-2635.