Tamaqua Lombard Street fire caused by 'careless smoking'
JOE PLASKO/TIMES NEWS Tamaqua firefighters enter the downstairs entrance at 513 Lombard St. while battling a fire Saturday night.
The Tamaqua Fire Department responded to a box alarm at 513 Lombard St. in the borough's North Ward Saturday night.
The cause of the fire, according to acting Tamaqua Fire Chief Tom Hartz, Jr., was "careless smoking."
Hartz said the house is owned by Frederick Fulmer, who lives in Florida. The current occupants are Kathryn Lehatto and Kerry Fulmer. Kerry's son, Skyler, was also in the home Saturday.
The call of a structure fire came in at 11:55 p.m. The home is located on a hill in the neighborhood near Tamaqua Elementary School.
There was a quick response by firefighters. The flames originated in the downstairs basement, which is an efficiency apartment. There were no injuries.
A sofa and chair were removed from the basement.
Once outside, the smoldering furniture continued to be doused by firefighters' hoses. The home was also ventilated to remove the smoke.
Freezing temperatures created some icing in spots, particularly below the fire scene as the water ran downhill.
While outside, Kerry Fulmer explained that the fire began while he was sleeping upstairs.
"I went downstairs at 8:30 to smoke a cigarette," he said. "Apparently, an ashtray caught fire when we were in bed sleeping."
Hartz said the residents were alerted by a smoke detector and were able to get out of the house and knock on the door and alerted Brian Connely, who lives next door. Hartz mentioned the fire started on either the couch or chair.
"It was careless smoking," Hartz states. "They had a working smoke alarm, and that probably saved their lives. They heard the detector, which woke them up, and they went outside and banged on Brian Connely's door."
Connely, who is a volunteer firefighter and a former captain with the American Hose Fire Company, helped put out the flames until other fire companies arrived shortly after.
The basement sustained heavy damages. The residents were displaced by the blaze and are staying with friends and family until repairs can be made.
Hartz said that the homeowner has fire insurance on the property.
Andrew Leibenguth, a volunteer for the Schuylkill and Eastern Northumberland Red Cross and The Salvation Army, said assistance is being provided to the fire victims.
Tamaqua firefighters were assisted at the scene by Tamaqua Police, Tamaqua Community Ambulance and Rescue Squad.