Fire destroys Hempfield house, but family escapes unharmed
Tim O'Donnell was talking on the phone with his wife when a loud clap of thunder sounded over the line Monday afternoon.
"We both heard it," said O'Donnell, a Westmoreland County deputy coroner who was at work at the time. "She said, 'It sounds like it hit the house.'"
So O'Donnell told his wife, Cindy, to go outside and inspect their Hempfield home for any signs of a lightning strike. She returned to the phone and said she couldn't see any problems.
Fifteen minutes later, Cindy O'Donnell called her husband back, this time screaming that their home of 31 years was on fire after being alerted to it by a neighbor.
And while their home sustained significant damage in the blaze, the O'Donnells said they are thankful that the fire didn't take any lives.
"It's an act of God. Something I can't control," Tim O'Donnell said. "Everybody's fine."
Adamsburg fire Chief Don Thoma said a township fire investigator is trying to determine the cause of the fire at 115 Brush Creek Road, which was reported at 3:42 p.m.
He said lightning was a possible cause.
"It happened at the height of the storm," said Thoma. "I was driving home in the middle of it. It was thunder and lightning all over the place."
The fire appears to have started in the two-bay garage attached to the two-story home, Thoma said. From there, the fire spread into the attic of the main living space.
Thoma said the fire was hot and spread fast.
"I could feel the heat through the window (of the ladder truck)," Thoma said. "It was so hot I had to stop."
The garage was destroyed. The home itself is still standing but suffered significant interior damage, Thoma said.
Tim O'Donnell said the home is likely a total loss. Only his wife, and daughter, Briana, 20, were home at the time, and they escaped when their neighbor came to the door to warn them of the blaze.
Their son, Liam, 25, who also lives there, was at work at the time. Firefighters were able to save Liam's turtles, which live in the basement.
The family's guard dog, a German shepherd, also survived the fire, though he startled the neighbor who had come to raise the alarm about the fire.
"The neighbor opened the door to yell, 'Fire,' and he grabbed on her, but she's OK," O'Donnell said.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Westmoreland jail warden pushes for full-body scanner to find drugs, contraband
- Hempfield hires finance director
- State police to offer car seat inspections in Hempfield
- Acme man’s ephemeral sculptures appear to defy laws of physics
- Foes of South Huntingdon gas-fired plant fight approval
- Westmoreland Veterans’ Monument unveiled, rededicated in Greensburg
- Theft thwarted by employee at North Huntingdon Wal-Mart
- A family’s flag flies again in Mt. Pleasant
- Man taken to hospital after New Alexandria house burns
- Hempfield train crash search called off; no evidence found
- Westmoreland used car dealers indicted in fraud