FAIRVIEW TWP — Fire early this morning forced a woman and four teenagers to flee a home into the frigid outdoors with nothing but the clothes on their backs.
No one was hurt, but the wood-frame house at 563 West Slippery Rock Road was badly damaged in the fire that started about 4:30 a.m.
Fire officials suspect the accidental blaze started at or near the chimney. A wood burner was being used to heat the home.
“I was up getting ready for work and heard an explosion while I was in the shower,” Lois Libecco said. “I came out and saw smoke all through the house.”
Libecco lives there with her boyfriend, Barry Steele Sr., who owns the house that his father previously lived in for 60 years.
Steele was away at deer hunting camp in Armstrong County but his son, who also lives there, was sleeping at the house with three friends, between 17 and 19 years old.
The fire was initially reported as a chimney fire, said Chief Jason Miller of the Chicora Volunteer Fire Department. But by the time he got there, flames were tearing through the attic.
The house is just a little more than a mile from the fire station.
“We sent an interior crew up into the attic,” Miller said, “and it was knocked down in about 15 minutes.”
But snuffing out stubborn hot spots kept firefighters hopping for an additional 90 minutes or so.
Miller said the fire likely started at or around chimney. A crack in the chimney could have been the specific cause.
“But it’s hard to tell for sure because of all the damage,” he said.
He estimated damage at $50,000 to $75.000 to the house and an additional $25,000 to its contents.
Steele said he rushed home from camp after getting a call from his girlfriend.
He said he has no insurance on the property but wants to rebuild.
“It’s going to take a lot of work, but I have a lot of friends in construction,” he said. “What I’m going to need is money.”