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Community helps family displaced by fire

The Palmerton area community has rallied around a family who was displaced by fire in Bowmanstown on Friday night.

Brian and Michelle Gordon and their children escaped the fire that broke out in the attic of their Craig Street residence at 9:30 p.m. Friday with little but their clothes.

Michelle Gordon said the family was preparing to go to bed and the lights went on and off upstairs. Her husband went downstairs to check the breaker. Michele opened the outside door and smelled smoke, but at that point didn’t know it was coming from her own home.

Brian ran back upstairs and opened the attic door.

That’s when he yelled fire.

At that point Michelle was still in the kitchen and banged on the first-floor bedroom doors of the children, Joey, 15, and Samantha, 9. Samantha had a friend visiting and they all ran out, with just their clothes and no shoes.

“My husband scooped the cat right up,” Michele said. He yelled for Michelle to get her car keys. She grabbed her purse and keys, which allowed them to move the car away from the area of the fire.

Fire report

Aquashicola Fire Chief Bill George said the fire broke out at 9:35 p.m. Friday in the single home at 200 Craig St. in Lower Towamensing Township.

“It appears to have started in the attic/bathroom area,” George said.

George said no one sustained injuries, and added the American Red Cross was called in to assist the family.

He said the home suffered a lot of damage as the fire burned through the roof of the home.

George said it took a little while to knock down the fire because of the conditions due to the snow.

“The firemen made a good stop,” he said. “A few more minutes, (the home) would have been down.”

George said the fire remains under investigation.

Also assisting at the scene were the Bowmanstown Fire Department, Palmerton Fire Department, Parryville Fire Department, Mahoning Valley Fire Department, Diamond Fire Company in Walnutport, and Palmerton Ambulance.

George said firefighters remained on scene for over three hours.

“The firemen did an outstanding job,” he said. “It was a good group of volunteers, and a good turnout.”

The aftermath

Michelle Gordon and the family sheltered at the Country Inn & Suites in Lehighton, thanks to vouchers from the Red Cross.

They were able to salvage some things from the house, including Brian’s wallet, so they do have access to bank cards and other necessary items. They were able to get Joey’s shoes.

“My son’s room has water damage. Our bedroom is a total loss,” Gordon said. The door was closed to her daughter’s room, but it still smells like smoke.

They have insurance, but Gordon said, “We’re starting all over. She talked about the wedding albums, mementos from her late mother and other precious heirlooms lost in the fire.

The family still has the normal expenses such as mortgage and car payments.

They moved here from Erie about seven years ago and just closed on this house last July. Now they need to find a three-bedroom home to rent for about a year while the home is rebuilt. They need to be able to take their cat with them in the rental. Right now a friend is housing the cat.

“I want to be able to give the kids some sense of normalcy,” Gordon said.

Gordon works in the office at Parkside Elementary and is the Parkside/S.S. Palmer PTO president.

She has helped others in the community. Now people are hoping to help her.

Both the staff at Parkside and S.S. Palmer are working to help the Gordons.

Friends across the country are reaching out.

People came to the hotel with food and other assistance.

“Every time someone knocks on the door, my daughter says, ‘Mom’s going to cry.’?”

Her friend Laura Konze wrote in the GoFundMe account, “For all who know Michelle, she will give you the shirt off her back without hesitation and never ask for anything in return. When asked if she or the family needed anything, her answer was “We’re Good.” Because of this, I am setting up this page. …”

Gordon replied, “To be on the receiving end, I’ll never be able to pay these people back.”

Another friend, Jessica Cohen, is collecting gift cards for fast food (anything) or grocery store gift cards (Country Harvest or Giant), Walmart, Target and Amazon. Any amount will help them to buy a lunch, dinner until they are able to cook on their own or clothing.

Any monetary donations can also be sent directly to the Gordons via PayPal or Venmo to gordonm887@gmail.com.

Money or gift cards can be dropped off at 121 Franklin Ave., Palmerton, in the locking mailbox, monitored by a Ring mailbox. For more information, email jessc511@gmail.com.

The GoFundMe account is https://bit.ly/2P147iB.

“We are overwhelmed by the response,” Michelle Gordon said. “We have an amazing community here.”

Terry Ahner contributed to this report.

Firefighters battle a fire that started in the attic of the home of Brian and Michelle Gordon on Craig Street in Bowmanstown Friday night. COPYRIGHT LARRY NEFF/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS