The Washington Township home of Charles and Evelyn Eaches was destroyed in a massive, two-story fire the morning of June 18. Firemen from more than 14 companies were called to the blaze, which is believed to have been started by a malfunctioning appliance in the Eacheses' kitchen.

"That house was over 200 years old," Charles Eaches said. "It had a long time to dry. When the fire started, it went up like a matchstick."

Eaches, a semi-retired cabinet maker, lived in the house on the 8600 block of Brown Street with his wife, a former staff member of Palmerton and Lehigh Valley hospitals.

According to Slatedale Fire Chief Blaine Horn, the fire was started by an oil-filled pan left on the home's stove. Eaches said he thought that the burner was off when he placed the pan there, noticing that the indicator light was not lit. This defect was attributed to repairs Eaches had recently made to the stove's heating element.

"I've known Mr. Eaches for a long time," Horn said, "and I know he wouldn't do anything to jeopardize his home.

"Unfortunately, accidents like this sometimes happen."

When the fire first broke out, Eaches and his wife fled to a neighboring building that houses the family's cabinet carpentry store. Once safely away from the blaze, the couple notified the Lehigh Valley Communications Center, which dispatched Horn. He arrived at the scene at 10:25 a.m., closely followed by his company's engines.

However, many of Slatedale's volunteer firemen suffered heat exhaustion and smoke inhalation. The shortage of manpower, combined with the rural area's lack of a water supply, forced Horn to call in support from a score of other local companies, including Palmerton, Orefield, Lehigh Township and Bowmanstown.

The travel time for some of the more distant companies coupled with the home's landscape pine trees in front of the home made it difficult to get close to the fire created a delay that allowed the conflagration to engulf the home completely.

Yet to Evelyn Eaches, the loss of her home is insignificant compared to the death of Snickers, the family's cherished black lab. The elderly canine fell victim to the thick smoke produced by the fire.

"With all that we had in the house, if we could've gotten that dog out, I'd be satisfied," she said. "He would have helped us through this. He was a special member of our family."

For the time being, the Eacheses are staying in the home of their son, Charles Jr, in New Tripoli. They have placed a mobile home near the site of their former house to serve as a temporary residence.