Fairfield family loses fight to save their home from fire

| Thursday, Jan. 31, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

A Fairfield family filled pots and pans with water to fight the flames but lost their home to a fire that broke out early Wednesday morning.

The Penrose family, all of whom escaped unharmed, looked on as their house, at 1367 Route 259, was ravaged by fire.

Fairfield fire Chief Kevin Stiffler said most of the one-story stone house was engulfed in flames when firefighters arrived and was a total loss.

“I guess we'll just knock it down and start over,” homeowner Ronald Penrose said. “I'm down, but I'm not out.”

Penrose, 59, said he was awakened by the smell of smoke about 6 a.m. Wednesday. When he opened the bedroom door, he could see flames at the east end of the stone house where an addition was under construction.

“I just grabbed (my wife), lifted her up and went,” he said.

Penrose's wife, Barb, 60, has osteoporosis and other health problems and cannot walk, Penrose said. Her wheelchair was destroyed.

Penrose ran back into the house to join his son, Ross, 22, in trying to save the home where they have lived for more than 20 years.

“My dad was filling up pots and pans with water, and I was running them back and forth to the spare room,” Ross Penrose said, brushing a handful of ashes from his hair. “But it just spread too quick. There was nothing we could do.”

At that point, Ronald Penrose said, he got his son and their dog, Emma, out of the house.

By 8:30 a.m., firefighters were hosing down hot spots in the charred remains of the building. No personal belongings could be salvaged, Ronald Penrose said.

“All I have is what I got on,” he said pointing to his boots, shirt and sweatpants. “I can't even get inside my truck because my keys were in the house. My wife's brand-new wheelchair was inside. That's gone. Everything's gone.”

Stiffler said the home was insured.

A state police fire marshal will investigate the cause of the fire, which started in the addition, Stiffler said. The new room was intended to be a sitting room for Barb Penrose, her son said.

Stiffler said fires are especially difficult to fight in the rural township, where there is no public water supply. The Penrose home is located about halfway between Bolivar and Ligonier Township.

“It took us a little while to get a consistent water supply,” Stiffler said.

More than 10 fire companies responded to the call. Several refilled their tankers at Hypocrite Creek, more than a mile from the blaze.

The Penroses will stay with family members.

Jewels Phraner is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-850-1218 or jphraner@tribweb.com.

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