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Homer City family loses all in fire

| Thursday, June 18, 2009

FORD CLIFF -- M.J. Crownover never thought she would have to explain to her grandchildren why they don't have a house to live in.

For the past few days, however, Crownover has been helping the youngsters understand the fact that a fire destroyed their Homer City home early Friday morning.

The home of her daughter, Abby Flick Olp, who grew up in Ford Cliff and graduated from Ford City High School, caught fire as the family slept, allowing them only moments to escape. Abby and her husband Timothy and their two children, Jayna, 4, and Gabriel, 3, had to jump from the porch roof to safety.

According to Crownover, Abby and Gabriel were able to find their way to the porch roof after being lost for a brief time in the smoke-filled home. Her husband's voice calling to her lead them to safety. Neighbors and passers-by also helped the family escape from the roof.

The four were taken to Indiana Regional Medical Center for treatment of smoke inhalation and minor injuries and later released, according to Crownover.

"When Abby called to tell me what happened I didn't even recognize her voice," Crownover said. "I am just so grateful that they were all able to escape and that they were all safe."

Crownover said the family of four was renting the house, at 300 S. Main St., and had planned to purchase the home. The couple hopes to be able to rebuild on the property.

Joe Iezzi, Homer City assistant fire chief, said the family was lucky to have escaped the fast-moving blaze.

"The house was engulfed in flames when we arrived," he said. "Parts of the roof, the floors and the staircases were gone."

Iezzi said the state police fire marshal ruled the fire accidental and said it was believed to have stated in the kitchen or dining room of the home.

"They were not able to find an exact cause," he said. "There was too much damage to pinpoint the location. The house is a total loss and will need to be torn down."

Iezzi said crews from Homer City, Coral/Graceton, and Indiana were dispatched just before 2 a.m. Friday and crews remained on scene for about five hours.

The severity of the fire resulted in very few salvageable items when the family returned to the burned-out structure.

"They literally escaped with the clothes on their backs," Crownover said. "There was very little left in the house that they could find."

Crownover said the family was put up in a hotel by the American Red Cross for a few days and is staying with Abby's uncle in a small apartment.

"They are very cozy," Crownover said. "We're trying to help out by taking the kids and keeping them occupied while they try to get things settled."

Crownover said friends and family have been helping the family, but more help is needed.

"People called offering furniture and appliances and things, but right now, there is no where to put them," she said. "They need help with clothing, food and other things for now until they can find a more permanent place to stay."

Crownover hoped that donations could come in the form of gift cards so that the family could purchase the items needed by the family and said she would accept the donations.

To help, send donations to M.J. Crownover, 636 Orr Ave., Ford Cliff, 16228. For more information, contact her at 724-763-9383.

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