BY DEBBIE WACHTER MORRIS DMORRIS@NCNEWSONLINE.COM
Tears streaked Sharon Stanyard's face Monday as ferocious flames consumed her life's memories. The 48-year-old New Beaver Borough woman was digging potatoes in her garden with family friend Bill Robinson of Shenango Township around 12:45 p.m. when they heard a crackling sound. They looked up and saw smoke rolling from the windows of the farmhouse on GlenKirk Road, where Stanyard had lived for years. Robinson handed Stanyard his cell phone to call 911, and ran to rescue her mixed breed dog River, tied outside. "By the time I got up there, it was engulfed," he said. Although firetrucks arrived quickly, the two-story wood-framed house was already gone, Stanyard said. "They were here within minutes, but it just went that fast," she said. Billowing smoke could be seen from several miles away. Stanyard lived alone in the house that she owned with her husband, Jerome, who lives elsewhere. This was the second fire the couple has had this year in one of their co-owned houses. A double-wide mobile home next door, which had been renovated to be used as a rental unit, went up in flames April 9. Jerome Stanyard said he believes the cause was an electric heater. The state police fire marshal was called to investigate both blazes. New Beaver Borough fire officials were battling the blaze Monday afternoon and unavailable for comment. Sharon Stanyard said she was unsure of how the fire started. She noted she had been cooking chicken earlier on the gas range. "I thought I saw flames in the kitchen window, but smoke was coming out of the upstairs windows, too. "This was my grandmother's house," she said, adding she lost all her belongings. According to Jerome Stanyard, the house was almost 200 years old and had housed at least three generations of Sharon Stanyard's family, the Householders. Harold Householder, Sharon Stanyard's brother and neighbor, said his father had lived in the dwelling, too. According to Sharon, the house was fairly large and had four bedrooms, two baths, a dining room, living room and kitchen. Jerome Stanyard said the couple had collected Harley-Davidson motorcycle memorabilia dating to the 1930s, but lost it all in the fire. He said they spent four years remodeling the kitchen. "It was solid red oak," he said. "We cut the trees down, milled them and dried them ourselves." Friends and family members at the scene described Sharon Stanyard as a hard worker. Jerome Stanyard noted that each year, she plants an acre-sized garden that he and Robinson help maintain. "We get so many potatoes that we'd never sell all of them," he said, adding that in exchange for his help, Robinson gets produce for his family. Sharon Stanyard keeps a pen of chickens and turkeys behind the house on about 10 acres of farmland surrounded by scenic hills and woodland. She also owns two other dogs, both Doberman pinschers, which were outside when the fire started. Jerome Stanyard drove his wife to the hospital Monday afternoon when she became emotionally distraught. The American Red Cross offered help to the Stanyards and provided refreshments to the firefighters. Departments from North Beaver and Taylor townships, and Big Beaver, Enon Valley, Chewton and Wampum boroughs assisted New Beaver Borough's firefighters.