The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

April 9, 2013

Firefighters hurt in Windber blaze

Home destroyed

David Hurst

WINDBER — A two-alarm blaze ripped through an 11th Street home Tuesday afternoon and sent at least two firefighters to local hospitals for treatment.

Fire crews had to battle a fast-burning fire in nearly

80 degree temperatures, the area’s warmest all season. Firefighters frequently were sent to a sideline tent for medical aid or water, Windber fire Chief Aaron Cicon said

He called Tuesday’s fire a difficult one to battle.

“The heat was an issue. We’re just not used to it yet,” Cicon said, adding that even with crews from several companies at the scene, a second alarm was requested because “guys were dropping out because of the heat.”

Cicon said he did not know the extent of injuries sustained by the firefighters who were transported from the scene.

The home’s owner, Gina Hillegas, apparently returned home to find her home on fire shortly after 1 p.m., Cicon said.

Fortunately, all five of her children were at school, he added.

“I’m not sure what happened,” a visibly shaken Hillegas said, pausing to hug a neighbor who stopped by to express concern.

Kathy Yourich, a neighbor, said she was hanging laundry when Hillegas ran to her screaming that her house was on fire – and they quickly called 911.

“The first thing I saw was that the fire was already coming from the kitchen window,” Yourich said. Thick smoke enveloped the home.

“It just seemed to burn so fast,” she said.

Cicon said the kitchen sustained the most damage and that it was possible the fire started there. But the blaze remained under investigation Tuesday evening, he said.

A state police fire marshal had been called to the scene.

Cicon described the home as “a total loss.”

“The fire was ahead of us when we got there,” Cicon said. “We were playing catch-up the whole time.”

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