The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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January 28, 2014

VIDEO | Fire crews battling Shade Twp fire, winter's wrath

CENTRAL CITY — Fire crews from across northern Somerset County have spent all afternoon battling a fast-burning Shade Township fire - and frigid conditions - but no injuries were reported, responders said.

Crews arrived on scene around 1 p.m. hopeful they could contain the blaze to the basement but the Shade Church Road home’s construction and five degree Fahrenheit temperatures were “just too much,” Central City Assistant Chief Don Beltz said.

“We arrived to find heavy smoke from the basement - and we went in and took our attack to the cellar. But it was already spreading,” Beltz said, noting the floor started crumbling from above. “We had to evacuate.”

He said the fact the home had two layers of walls allowed flames to spread and quickly consume the multi-story home, located alongside farm land south of Central City.

Crews attacked the blaze from outside but had to deal with a thick white cloud of smoke they created by blasting hot flames with pressurized water in the bone-chilling air, Shanksville Firefighter David Marghella said.

“We can barely see what we’re fighting,” Marghella said, noting water being sprayed on the fire was coming back down on them like snow. “You’re trying to attack it while being careful not to accidentally spray someone around you.”

No one was home at the time crews arrived, Beltz said.

McIlwain buses that typically transport students to and from Shade schools were sent to the scene to provide firefighters a place to warm up from the cold. One firefighter displayed a broken, ice-covered face shield as he boarded the warm bus.

“It’s freezing out there,” Marghella said.

Behind him, school bus driver Melvin Burket of Cairnbrook was letting another round of firefighters back off the bus to get back to work.

“My boss called and said ‘Can you get down there and help,’ - and I told him I was on my way,” Burket said. “At least we can get them out of the wind a bit.”

David Hurst is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter for updates on this fire and other news.

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