New Castle News

January 4, 2013

Six fire crews fought blaze, cold

Debbie Wachter
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — Crews who battled a house fire in Hickory Township Wednesday spent 4 1/2 hours in temperatures in the 20s.

Volunteers from six departments were able to keep the house at 3363 State Route 168 from burning to the ground, but most of the inside was gutted, Hickory Township Fire Chief David White said Thursday.

The residents, Sara Paden and Larry Houk, lost most of their belongings in the fire that broke out around 3:30 p.m.

According to Lawrence County assessment records, the property and two-story white frame house are owned by Larry W. Houk Jr.

The couple’s dogs — a 3-year-old lab named Gunner and a coon hound named Penny that is only a few months old — suffered smoke inhalation and hypothermia. They were rescued from the house by firefighters who treated them at the scene, then took them to Apple Grove Veterinary Clinic.

The dogs were admitted to intensive care at the animal hospital where they were stabilized and kept overnight, according to veterinarian Dr. Jeffrey McKissick.

Brian Benedict, a veterinary assistant at Apple Grove, said Thursday the dogs’ condition remains relatively unchanged from Wednesday afternoon.

He said the clinic is donating its time and veterinary services for their care.

“We’ve been getting a lot of calls from people asking to donate to help pay for the dogs’ veterinary bills,” Benedict said.

But Apple Grove’s staff is asking that anyone wanting to help the couple donate to them directly.

Benedict said a bank account has been set up for donations. Checks should be made out to Sara Paden and mailed to Northwest Savings Bank, 200 S. Center St., Grove City, Pa. 16127 or delivered to any of the bank’s branch offices.

Lesley Kaluzne, American Red Cross disaster manager, said Thursday the agency is assisting the couple with initial emergency needs such as food, clothing and winter items.

“They are staying with family,” she said, “but we will continue to follow up with them.”

White said he has no idea yet how the fire started but said the cause does not appear to have been suspicious.

“The interior of the house was gutted on the first and second floors,” White said. “The basement has moderate water and smoke damage.”

He did not have a damage estimate.

Firefighters from Hickory, Slippery Rock, Scott and Shenango townships, and Volant and South New Castle boroughs fought the blaze until about 8:30 p.m.

“I am very grateful to all the mutual aid,” White said Thursday. “I think everybody worked very well together and we had a successful stop on the structure, for as involved as it was.”

The firefighters’ efforts were slightly hampered by the snow, ice and temperatures in the 20s, “and of course we made more ice,” White said.

A couple of firefighters slipped, he said, but no one was injured.

(Email: dwachter@ncnewsonline.com)