The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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April 7, 2014

Investigators seek cause of fire that killed three brothers

Home alone with two surviving siblings while mom at work

DANVILLE — Authorities searched the rubble of a burned-out farm house over the weekend for the cause of a fire that took the lives of three young brothers left home alone while their widowed mother worked the overnight shift at a direct mail company.

Two siblings, a 14-year-old girl and a 10-year-old boy, survived the early-morning Friday inferno that may have been touched off by kerosene lanterns used in the home. They ran to a neighbor’s house to ask for help and were later treated for smoke inhalation.

A sixth child, age 4 ½, was spending the night at a friend’s house.

Fifty firemen and emergency workers from nearby communities in Central Pennsylvania responded to the fire. By the time they arrived, the house was engulfed in flames.

“There was just nothing left,” firefighter Ed Savidge told WNEP-TV. “It was completely gone.”

Bodies of the victims were found among the rubble. They were identified as Daniel Dissinger, 13; Gavin Dissinger, 7, and Arthur Dissinger, 2. They were reportedly sleeping when the fire broke out.

Christine Dissinger, their mother, was working at the Daniel J. Thompson Mailing Corp., about 10 miles away in Bloomsburg, when the fire broke out about 1:20 a.m. Acquaintances said her husband and the children's father died in 2010 and she was struggling to raise the family.

Merle Zimmerman, owner of the farm property, said the Dissingers had moved into the home only a week earlier.

“They were just getting unpacked,” said Zimmerman. “Her husband had passed a couple of years ago, so she’s had it kind of rough. Now this.”

The mother visited the middle school of the oldest victim Saturday morning to collect his belongings and take a picture of his locker adorned with sympathy messages from his classmates.

“I’m sorry, Daniel. I wish I could’ve said goodbye,” read one message. “Dan, is an awesome kid,” said another.

“This whole thing is so sad,” said school Principal Charles Smargiassi. “We are coming together as a community and family, and we are coping with this the best we can.”

Fire Chief Butch Kriner said some of his younger firefighters were distraught over the tragedy. “Whenever kids are involved, it makes it worse,” said Kriner. “We grieve for the family that is left behind. This is a tough, emotional road.”

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