Couple's efforts go up in flames
The blaze broke out shortly before 4 p.m. yesterday at 310 Main St. (Route 31), just east of Mt. Pleasant Borough. The house, owned by Jodiene Russel of Mt. Pleasant, was divided into two apartments.
According to Trooper Kevin Karwatsky, state police fire marshal, the fire started near an entertainment center in the living room of the second-floor apartment rented by David Thomas and Summer Davis.
'Everything was burned so badly we really can't come to any conclusions as to how it started,' Karwatsky said.
Although the flames were detected at roughly the same time a severe thunderstorm hit in the area, Karwatsky said he didn't believe the cause was lightning.
'I didn't see the typical damage you see from lightning,' he said.
Davis said she noticed smoke as she and her two children, Michael Sekeres, 4, and Shane Davis, 15 months, visited with her mother, Gloria Jackson, who lives in the first-floor apartment. Davis said she heard a 'dinging' sound that she believed was a toy.
'I started looking for the toy, and then I looked out the window and saw the smoke,' Davis said.
Davis said she ran outside toward the entrance to her apartment and was met by Thomas, who just arrived home from his job at Powerex in Youngwood. Thomas was on his way to get everyone out of the two-story frame and asbestos-sided home.
'We worked so hard for everything up there, and we've lost it all,' Davis said as she watched firefighters clean up after bringing the blaze under control in about a half-hour.
Davis said she and Thomas moved into the apartment in March. The couple, Davis said, refinished floors, painted and remodeled the bathroom in the apartment. In addition to most of their belongings, Davis said a $1,000 Star Wars figure collection also was destroyed. She was, however, able to recover some photo albums.
The damage to the apartment was so severe fire officials declared it uninhabitable.
Jackson said she planned to stay in her first-floor apartment, despite some smoke and water damage, and against the recommendation of Hecla Second Assistant Fire Chief Adam Kujawa.
'She's stubborn. She's not going to leave her house,' Davis said of her mother.
Jackson said she wanted to remain in her apartment because her husband recently underwent treatment for Hodgkin's disease at a Pittsburgh hospital and couldn't come home if he didn't have a place to stay.
The Red Cross was contacted, but before aid workers arrived, one neighbor who asked not to be identified brought over a bag of clothes for Davis.
'I'm sure other neighbors will be here to help, too,' the neighbor said. 'It's a shame. People who have nothing always have it tougher than others. These kids were really trying.'