House wall collapses
RON GOWER/TIMES NEWS A large section of wall at 38 W. White St., Summit Hill, broke loose on Monday morning, forcing a family of four to flee. The damage, which occurred at one of the oldest houses in Summit Hill, forced officials to condemn the building.
Ken Cathcart said that for some time, he'd lay in bed in his home at 38 W. White St., Summit Hill, and would hear noises inside the wall - as though something was falling. It concerned him, but he knew it was an old house - one of the oldest in the hilltop borough.
Yesterday morning, shortly before noon, he heard a very loud noise while he was resting in his second floor bedroom.
An entire section of an exterior, side wall - about eight feet wide and 10 feet high - fell onto a sidewalk, the falling bricks crushing a section of chain-link fence that separates his yard from his neighbor's.
"I've always heard crumbling," he said. "I was laying in bed and I heard it coming down."
Although scores of bricks fell from the facade of the home, it wasn't enough to expose the interior of the house.
Instead a layer of jagged, seemingly unstable bricks menacingly protruded from the damaged area.
So severe was the incident, borough officials immediately had two engineers inspect the property.
They reached the decision quickly to condemn the single, three-story dwelling.
Cathcart said he was renting the home for the past six months and was negotiating with the owner to purchase it.
He resides in it with his girlfriend, Brandi Johnson, and their two children, Jacob Cathcart, 4, and Alanna Lennox, 11, moving here from the Philadelphia area.
Borough records indicate the home is owned by Michael Perno of Quakertown.
Cathcart said he and his family have found temporary housing.
The Summit Hill and Lansford Fire Departments responded to the scene. The ladder on Summit Hill Fire Department's aerial truck was extended and allowed borough engineer Ronald Tirpak and Carbon County Emergency Management Coordinator Mark Nalesnik to ascend it and inspect the situation at the roof level.
Also present at the scene were borough council President Joe Weber and councilman Mike Kokinda. They had a building inspector, Rick Harmon, also an engineer, of Barry Isett & Associates, Trexlertown, do a more thorough inspection of the premises.
Harmon then proceeded to place pink "condemned" signs on windows around the building.
Nalesnik agreed with the condemnation order.
"The building is not structurally sound," he said, adding that additional heavy rains could cause more of the wall to collapse.
Len Ogazalek, assistant fire chief, was in charge at the scene and said he feels the heavy rain which fell overnight might have contributed to the wall collapse.
Cathcart said there was always buckling in the area where the collapse occurred.
He said he believes the house was built around 1820, noting that an 1840 sketch of the First Presbyterian Church and its neighboring parsonage has his home on it.
The Cathcart residence is next to the parsonage.
The pastor of the church is retiring and initially was denied entrance in the parsonage to do packing yesterday. After the engineers inspected the Cathcart building, it was decided that the collapse occurred on the east side of the residence and that the parsonage didn't appear to be in immediate danger from the damaged structure.
Living on the other side of the house is Mary Risavy at 32 W. White St.
"I heard a loud noise and went running to the window,"Risavy said.
She said she saw the damage and phoned her daughter.
Emergency responders urged her not to stay in her residence last night because more rain was predicted, which might complicate the wall situation at the neighboring dwelling.
She agreed the situation could have been a lot worse. She noted that Cathcart's children often play on the sidewalk where the bricks fell.
A crew from PPL Electric turned off electricity to the damaged home.