This fire strikes too close to home
RON GOWER/TIMES NEWS Bruce Berger, right, Albrightsville fire chief, chats with members of the McFeeley family of Penn Forest Township, l-r, C. J., Danny, and mother Sandra. C. J. is a junior firefighter and Sandra is a member of the fire police. C. J. was helping on a construction project at the fire house last Wednesday when a call came into the station. It was C. J.'s house that was on fire. The Albrightsville Fire Department has begun a fund drive for the family.
C. J. McFeeley, 16, is a gung-ho, junior firefighter who spends a lot of time at the Albrightsville fire station.
He was there Wednesday afternoon, one of a trio of volunteers helping to install a new floor. Then the alarm sounded.
The dispatcher gave the address of the fire call. McFeeley heard it and knew exactly the location. It was his home.
When the firefighters reached the scene of the fire, there already was major damage. Most of the inside of the house was ruined by smoke and heat. Very little was salvageable.
Nobody was home at the time. C. J.'s mother was at work in Wilkes-Barre. His father, who is disabled, and a younger brother, were running errands for senior citizens.
As a result of the loss, several organizations including the Albrightsville Fire Company, have organized drives to help the McFeeley family.
The family consists of C. J., the mother, Sandra, who volunteers as a member of the Albrightsville Fire Police; the father, Chuck, and C.J.'s siblings, Danny, 13, and Rachel, 8.
Albrightsville Fire Chief Bruce Berger said the fire company has started a fund drive for the family, who presently is being housed in a one-bedroom hotel by the American Red Cross.
Anyone wanting to contribute should send donations to:
Albrightsville Fire Department, c/o McFeeley Fire Fund, P. O. Box 133, Albrightsville, PA 18201.
The fire company is also assisting with a clothing drive that is being coordinated by St. Paul's Lutheran Church in Albrightsville. For clothing sizes, call the fire department at (570) 722-8325 or email the fire company at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Geissinger Health Plan, where Sandra is employed, also has begun a fund drive.
Sandra said the family is also looking for temporary living quarters. She asked that anyone in the Jim Thorpe School District (preferably in the Albrightsville area) who has a house for rent to contact them through the fire company. The family has two dogs which managed to escape the fire. A pet rabbit and pet guinea pig were lost in last week's blaze.
Berger said the McFeeley house is located along Chesapeake rail in the Mount Pocahontas subdivision. He said the fire call jurisdiction is within the area served by the Penn Forest Fire Company. The Albrightsville Fire Department was actually summoned for mutual aid.
The fire chief said when the call came in, C. J. looked at him and stated, "It's my house."
C.J. immediately telephoned his mother at work.
It was the father and Danny who came upon the fire. When they returned home from the errands, Danny went to the door, opened it, and was met by the intense heat and smoke.
He closed the door and told his father, who immediately dialed 9-1-1.
"Inside there is a lot of heat and smoke damage," said Berger. "It was a smoldering type fire."
Reportedly the fire was ruled accidental and electrical in nature.
The McFeeley family moved to the township about two years ago. Sandra joined the fire police about six months ago and is still attending training classes.
She said the family does have insurance on the structure. The insurance company will pay for a rental house when one is found until repairs or rebuilding occurs to the burned structure.