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Parryville's fire volunteers went beyond call of duty during storm Along with responding to emergency calls, they checked on residents

  • RON GOWER/TIMES NEWS Parryville Fire Chief Arthur Strohl, left, and resident Gerard Getz look over roof which blew off a house in the borough.
    RON GOWER/TIMES NEWS Parryville Fire Chief Arthur Strohl, left, and resident Gerard Getz look over roof which blew off a house in the borough.
Published July 28. 2012 09:02AM

When Parryville became an isolated community Thursday night after the violent storm swept through, the tiny borough's volunteer firefighters took on a variety of roles.

Along with their response to numerous reports of fallen trees, downed wires, structure damages, and other emergency calls, they went door-to-door, checking on the needs of elderly residents and lending assistance to families with special needs such as handicapped members.

They then opened the firehouse to any resident requiring shelter.

Finally, they delivered water and ice to folks who had no way of getting it themselves.

Fire Chief Arthur Strohl said some firefighters were up all night and throughout most of the day on Friday assisting residents.

The neighboring Bowmanstown Fire Department provided mutual aid.

Strohl said by going door-to-door, he discovered that there are a lot of handicapped individuals in the community.

"I never knew there were so many handicapped children," he said. "There are infants with breathing problem. There are at least six families with handicapped children. One has a mattress that has to be constantly adjusted. These people need electricity."

Strohl immediately phoned his brother, Dave Strohl of Dave & Sons Tree Service, Palmerton.

The fire chief said Dave & Sons volunteered their services and came into town to remove trees that were blocking the streets.

The storm came through at about 6 p.m. Thursday. Residents said it was an initial gust of wind which caused the damage; a wind that lasted possibly less than a half minute.

As of 8 p.m. yesterday, the entire town was still without electricity. Electric crews said the town will have power restored one section at a time, with the first areas hopefully having it before midnight on Friday.

The PPL electric workers were assisted by crews from Pike Electric in North Carolina.

Penn Line Tree Service of Scottsdale, Westmoreland County had workers from as far away as State College, Pittsburgh, and West Virginia assisting with cutting away trees and debris from power lines.

Gerard Getz of Center Street went to the front of his house during the storm on Thursday and while standing there, witnessed a large section of a neighbor's roof blow off. The piece of roof got wrapped around a riding lawn mower in Getz's yard.

He admits being shaken by the scene.

"It was unbelievable," said Getz. "It was like a movie. It was like a 10-second thing ... a burst of wind. I saw things flying everywhere."

The individuals who lost their roof asked that their name not be used.

A woman in the house said, "It was really, really weird. I thought, 'Oh, my God.' I thought it was a tornado. It came up like a wind tunnel. The sound was horrible."

Dave Fink of 413 Main Street said the brunt of the storm lasted no more than 11 seconds, but despite the brevity, his damages were extensive. The family's swimming pool deck was ruined, a tree branch bashed the rear window of the family car, and there was damage to the house.

What he thought was the sound of hail during the storm was actually walnuts from nearby trees hitting the residence. He also thought a tornado was coming.

A large section of siding was torn off the side and front of Michael Kunkle's home on Center Street. Kunkle is a fire policeman and despite his own problems, he donned his vest and went about assisting his neighbors.

His biggest frustration was keeping away spectators so emergency workers could do their jobs.

He said he observed one motorist on a street ignoring low hanging wires, driving under them, and pulling one of them down.

Strohl also agreed that gawkers who came into town to explore the damages were an issue.

"The biggest problem is spectators," he said.

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