The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

November 29, 2012

Firefighters averted even bigger disaster


The Tribune-Democrat

— A blaze last week in the city’s Moxham section destroyed three structures, damaged others and left at least 13 people homeless.

It easily could have been much worse.

Credit well-trained, quick-thinking and dedicated firefighters. Also, a cooperative bond between paid and volunteer firefighters, one that perhaps wasn’t as defined – or as friendly – decades ago.  

Hats off also to resident Carlton Nelson and anyone else who helped alert neighbors and possibly prevent loss of life.

“I woke up and seen a big orange ball coming out (of the abandoned structure where the fire started),” Nelson told reporters.

“I grabbed my shoes. I pounded on everybody’s door. The porch was engulfed. It was hot.”

Obviously, it would have been much easier and much safer for Nelson, who lived in a five-unit apartment building, to get himself clear of the blaze.

Fortunately, he thought of others.

“There was a lot of fire,” Chief Anthony Kovacic said. “We called in every available (city) firefighter.”

Summoned at 10 p.m., city crews quickly called for suburban volunteers to man empty stations to protect other areas of city while Johnstown firefighters handled the blaze.

That changed as fifth and sixth alarms were sounded.

“We started to pull them in as the evening went on,” Kovacic said. “I can’t remember a time when we called in so many resources to help keep us from losing the block.”

In all, six tankers were summoned to supply additional water as pressure was reduced when numerous hydrants were opened to battle the fire.

Firefighters used fire-suppression foam and water on nearby homes to keep the flames from spreading.

“We were able to prevent the fire from jumping the street,” the chief said.

The Red Cross is aiding six families, including 11 adults and two children, who lived in the apartment complex and the house next to it.

“We’re providing food, clothing and shelter depending upon what their needs were,” said Lauren Ashley, Red Cross communications officer.

History tells us that, unfortunately, as colder, windy winter weather descends on our region, there will be many other challenges for our paid and volunteer firefighters, and the Red Cross, too.

Let’s continue to applaud their courageous efforts and give them the support and backing they deserve.

On this night, it indeed was a job well done.

 

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