New Castle News

January 3, 2013

Firefighters work to save dogs from blaze

Debbie Wachter
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — Firefighters knelt huddled together Wednesday, working feverishly to save two dogs they had rescued from inside a burning house.

The blaze broke out shortly before 3:30 p.m. at 3363 State Route 388 in Hickory Township, in the two-story white frame home of 20-year-old Sara Paden and her boyfriend, Larry Houk.

Firefighters from five departments braved biting weather in the 20s to battle the blaze, which apparently spread from the downstairs to the upstairs.

No one was home when the fire started, but two teens on their way to Slippery Rock said they had spotted heavy smoke rising from the house and stopped.

Levi Herold, 17, of Slippery Rock Township and Devon Gargiulo of Volant, who turned 18 Wednesday, called 911, then took additional action. A neighbor told them the couple had two dogs that might be inside.

“We kicked in the front and basement doors and broke the windows because we were worried about the dogs,” Herold said.

They told a firefighter about the animals and a fireman with an air pack went into the basement but told them he couldn’t see anything, Herold said.

A few minutes later, a group of about 10 firefighters had laid the two shaking dogs outside on stretchers, giving them oxygen, talking to them reassuringly and covering them with their turnout coats.

They carried the struggling canines to a nearby truck and one of the firemen drove them to Apple Grove Veterinary Clinic.

Gargiulo said he learned that one of the residents had just returned home from Afghanistan and the couple had moved in only recently.

The fire spread quickly and gutted most of the house.

By the time Paden arrived, the fire was out but smoke was still billowing from the upstairs windows. She stood by, her eyes filled with tears, watching as firefighters doused the house with their hoses. She said her grandparents in New Castle had heard about the fire and called her at work at a bank in Grove City.

Her foremost worry at the time was her dogs — a 3-year-old lab named Gunner and a coon hound named Penny that is only a few months old.

Veterinarian Dr. Jeff McKissick of Apple Grove said Wednesday night the dogs had no burns but had suffered smoke inhalation, and as of 7 p.m. they had “improved and not regressed.”

McKissick said the dogs had been suffering from hypothermia when they arrived at the clinic, but since then their body temperatures had been restored to normal and they were breathing better.

They were placed in the animal hospital’s intensive care unit and were being given fluids and respiratory treatments, he said. The dogs would be kept calm throughout the night, he continued, noting, “The next 12 to 24 hours will be critical.”

Paden, who noted she has lived in the house since August, said she had left for work shortly before 3 p.m., only half an hour before the fire started.

Volunteer fire departments from South New Castle, Volant, Scott and Shenango assisted Hickory Township. Noga EMS also was on scene.

Attempts to reach Hickory Township Fire Chief David White were unsuccessful Wednesday night while he was still at the scene.