2 dead in Jim Thorpe
LARRY NEFF/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS Flames shoot from rear of the home at 119 North Ave., Jim Thorpe, early this morning. Two people died in the blaze, which occurred only three blocks from a spectacular fire which occurred early Wednesday morning and critically burned a woman.
Another devastating fire occurred in the Heights section of Jim Thorpe this morning, the second in three days.
This one claimed two lives.
Dead are Sharon Joseph, 63, who was a former president of the Jim Thorpe Area School Board, and an unidentified male.
Joseph lived on the second floor of the two-and-a-half story, single frame dwelling at 119 North Ave. The male lived on the first floor.
Police are withholding the identity of the male until his next of kin is notified.
According to several officials, both bodies were found on the second floor. The officials said it appears the man tried to either alert or rescue Joseph.
Joseph resided with her adult daughter, Erin, who managed to escape the burning building. She declined medical treatment at the scene.
The fire at 2:20 a.m. today was only about three blocks from a disastrous fire which occurred Wednesday morning at 306-308 South Ave. That conflagration resulted in severe burns to Corrine "Corrie" Miller, who was confined to a wheelchair. Miller was pulled from the burning home by a neighbor and a firefighter. She is in the burn unit of Lehigh Valley Hospital, Salisbury Township.
Four homes were involved in Wednesday's fire.
Neither blaze is considered suspicious, nor are they connected. State police fire marshals from the Hazleton barracks are investigating both fires.
Fire Marshal David Klitsch said the fire apparently started on the second floor.
Chief of Police Joseph Schatz of Jim Thorpe said the fire marshal has determined it was accidental in nature. Schatz said it apparently originated in the kitchen, and is believed to have been the result "of the improper disposal of smoking materials in the trash can."
A fire marshal is hoping to speak with Miller before making an official ruling on Wednesday's fire, which started in her residence.
In today's fire, the apartment building was heavily involved in flames in the rear of the structure when firefighters reached the scene. Jim Thorpe Fire Chief William Diehm said most of the flames were contained to that area, but heavy smoke and heat damage in the front of the building. Both bodies were found near the front of the building.
Firemen applied CPR to both victims but were unsuccessful.
Three coroners were at the scene. They are Coroner Bruce Nalesnik and deputies Robert Miller and James Hauser. They said the two deceased individuals were transported to Lehigh Valley Hospital for autopsies.
Miller said one victim was pronounced dead at 3:59 a.m. and the other at 4 a.m. Joseph's body was found in the bathroom of her residence, Miller said. The male's body was located in a hallway.
The fire was battled in temperatures in the low teens the coldest weather so far this season. The frigid temperatures caused water to freeze almost as soon as it hit a surface, causing very slippery conditions for emergency personnel.
Responding were all three stations of the Jim Thorpe Fire Department as well as Penn Forest Fire Co. No. 1, Lehighton Fire Department, Nesquehoning Fire Department, and the Rapid Intervention Team of the Lansford and Summit Hill Fire Departments.
No firefighters were injured.
Wednesday morning's blaze occurred at about 3:30 a.m. in the midst of a heavy snowstorm.
Diehm was visibly saddened that there was a loss of life in this morning's fire, but was appreciative of the efforts and quick response of firefighters.
"Wednesday the snow and weather conditions slowed us from getting to the scene and everybody got out, thanks to a firefighter and neighbor," said Diehm. "This morning we got there quickly and there was still a loss of life."
Diehm said it's rare that there are two major fires back-to-back in the borough.
He said the last fire fatality in the borough was four to five years ago, around the Christmas season, when a house burned in the 400 block of Center Avenue, about four blocks from this morning's tragic scene.
(Larry Neff, TIMES NEWS correspondent, contributed to this story.)