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Family homeless following fire, lived 15 days without power

  • ANDREW LEIBENGUTH/TIMES NEWS Even though firefighters were in the home for only a short while, they were drenched with sweat as they exited. The home was without power for more than two weeks.
    ANDREW LEIBENGUTH/TIMES NEWS Even though firefighters were in the home for only a short while, they were drenched with sweat as they exited. The home was without power for more than two weeks.
Published June 19. 2012 05:01PM

A family of five in Tamaqua is homeless after one of them started a cooking fire in their basement.

The Guatamalen family, none of whom speak English, were in the process of moving to another home in Tamaqua. After the fire they were given temporary housing by the Tamaqua Salvation Army.

Around 7 p.m. on Sunday residents at 118 Center St. (SR309) called 911 after they smelled smoke. When police and firefighters arrived they found smoke emanating from the basement of an adjacent row home basement located at 120 Center St. Upon further investigation the fire chief determined the fire was the result of a homemade cooking fire, that was made to prepare a hot beverage.

Even though the fire was out when firefighters found it, smoke was still present. Firefighters placed large exhaust fans at entry and exit points of the home.

Both lanes of the road were closed for two hours while firefighters and police investigated. Tamaqua fire police volunteers were set up at numerous intersections to direct traffic.

Officials noted that the home didn't have power.

"The family appeared to being living without power for 15 days," said Tom Hartz, fire chief. "In addition to not having smoke detectors, fire extinguishers or CO detectors, the home had numerous other safety issues."

Pointing out the lack of an operating air conditioner in the home, firefighters noted that temperatures at certain parts of the home reached just under 100 degrees.

A code enforcement contractor was called in and deemed the property uninhabitable for human occupancy.

Hartz, police Officer Karl Herrig, South Ward Fire Company Chief Mark Bower and others stayed on scene for more than four hours offering assistance to the family.

Those who would like to offer monetary assistance (for food and future housing) to the family, may call (570) 668-1234.

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