On Dec. 1, my wife and I had a fire start in our house while we were away. I was only out for about 25 minutes. I was walking home, and from the time I first saw our house?- when everything seemed fine - to the time it takes to walk 200 feet, I could see smoke filling the house and could hear multiple smoke alarms.
I went in the side door, couldn't see and couldn't breathe. The phone was only about 10 feet from me, so I was able get to it by touching walls. I grabbed it, got out of the house and called 911 (two neighbors also called).
A Johnstown police officer arrived within a couple minutes and immediately asked if there was anyone left in the house. Fortunately, there wasn't. The Johnstown Fire Department arrived in less than five minutes. Those few minutes seemed like eternity.
Our firefighters put on their masks and respirator tanks, grabbed a hose and went into the house without hesitation. Having been in there earlier, I can tell you their action requires tremendous courage. Waiting for them to come back out again was another eternity. When they did, and reported that the fire was out and had been confined to a small area of the basement, I felt like I was sitting atop an elephant (the one I was wearing like an oversized scarf a moment earlier).
The fire had been limited to an area about 5 feet by 7 feet to one side of the basement wood stove. There was no structural damage to the house. We lost a few possessions, and a lot of wiring will need to be replaced. There was a little (much less than I would have expected) water damage in the basement. Smoke had filled the entire house in just a few minutes. All in all, we were very fortunate. No one was hurt and no animals were trapped inside. In a few weeks, everything will be cleaned up and the inside of the house repainted-life will return to normal.
It is difficult to put into words how grateful we are to our wonderful fire and police departments. No one enjoys paying taxes, but it will be a lot easier now that I've stood helpless in front of my burning house. To everyone who came to help us that morning, we cannot thank you enough.
F. BRUCE PETTIT