A couple lost their home and all their belongings in a fast-moving and stubborn fire Monday afternoon.
The single-family home at 42 Hartranft Lane is located high on a hill in Dieter's Hill area of West Bowmans in East Penn Township.
Living in the home was Darryl Herman, who was at home when the fire started, while his wife, Mary Herman was at work at Wal-Mart, Lehighton.
Herman said that he was sitting in the recliner when he saw that the chair was on fire and tried to put it out with a pitcher of water. When that didn't work, he tried to find the garden hose, but saw that it wasn't connected. Herman has injuries he sustained in a work-related accident at least 10 years ago.
The neighborhood is close-knit and it didn't take long for Herman's neighbor, Donna Pfeiffer, to see the black smoke coming from the home and Herman wandering around the yard. Pfeiffer called 9-1-1 and asked for help to get the couple's two dogs out of the home. She was assisted in getting the dogs out of the smoky interior by Malinda Fox, who is a health care assistant at Pfeiffer's home, caring for Pfeiffer's sister.
When Mary Herman arrived, she saw the house, which was also her childhood home, destroyed by the fire. She said the home had been completely remodeled over the past six years by her and her brother.
"It had tongue and grove all around and granite countertops," she said. "There were all new appliances in the kitchen and we had a 55-inch television in the living room and a 37-inch in the bedroom. All that work, gone."
Both dogs, Dallas, a Siberian husky; and Bernadine Lee, an American bulldog mix, were saved from the flames and were secured in Pfeiffer's garage.
Mary Herman was especially devastated when firefighters told her that her five cats perished in the fire. One cat was found in a bedroom and the other cats had run into the basement where they died.
The fire completely engulfed the interior of the home and burned through the roof.
Mary Herman said that there was an unused in-ground swimming pool enclosed in the one section of the house, which had needed new plumbing. She noted that all of the interior remodeling was completed and that they had started working on the exterior of the home. Restoring the swimming pool would have been next.
Cory Smith, fire chief of East Penn Fire Company, was in charge of the fire scene.
"I can't tell you how it started," he said. "I have called in a fire marshal."
Mary Herman said that she too wanted to know how the fire started.
"I know I did my usual routine this morning," she said. "I made my oatmeal and then checked my e-mail on the computer and went to work."
Assisting East Penn Fire Company at the scene were Parryville Fire Department, Bowmanstown Fire Department and Lehighton Fire Company. Also on scene was Bruce Wolfe, fire chief of Franklin Township.
Herman said she and her husband will be staying with family.
Also assisting the family with basic necessities were American Red Cross workers, who arrived at the scene to offer comfort.