A fast-moving, smoky fire shortly after 8 a.m. today tore through a Rush Township residence, forcing four occupants to flee outdoors during early morning snowfall.

Megan Devlin and three family members escaped injury, despite initially trying to fight the blaze with a fire extinguisher at the house at 92 Ben Titus Road.

Occupants reportedly said they were unsure of the cause.

"They said it started in the wall between the enclosed porch and the kitchen," said Paul Gimbel, who indicated that the area in question is not near a chimney.

Gimbel is father of Aaron Gimbel, co-owner with Devlin of the historic 1890s farmhouse. Aaron Gimbel was at work in Reading when the fire began and was summoned home by his father.

"I told him he might as well take his time getting home because there's nothing he can do here at this point," Gimbel said.

Despite rescue efforts by family, two beloved boxer dogs perished in the blaze.

"They tried to get them out, but the dogs were just too heavy," Gimbel said. "They were large dogs and very lovable."

Gimbel was grateful the family had escaped unharmed. Devlin reportedly was taken to a neary hospital as a precaution.

Emergency personnel from throughout the region responded quickly despite slippery, snow-covered roads. Firefighters battled the flames from port-a-tanks which had been set up on site. Additionally, tanker trucks and other equipment were summoned from as far away as Hazle Township and New England Valley in Walker Township.

Responders said the blaze spread quickly.

"It already was engulfed when we got here. There were flames shooting out the side windows," said Jeaninne Motroni of the Hometown Fire Company

Traffic was rerouted during the morning rush.

Fire police said their efforts to maintain safety were hampered substantially by stubborn motorists in their busy morning commutes.

"Motorists have got to learn to follow directions in emergency situations like this," said Hometown Fire Police Captain Merle Wertman of Tamaqua.

Wertman spent the morning directing traffic with longtime fire police volunteer Tim Uhrie.

Firefighters were still on the scene at press time.