Lehigh Valley

Driver of car found dead inside burning firehouse

Volunteer fire company offered help to continue providing coverage

Driver of car found dead inside burning firehouse

LOWER SAUCON TWP., Pa. - Officials are still trying to piece together the circumstances surrounding an accident that sparked a massive fire at a fire station, leaving one man dead and another injured.

A three-axle truck and a car collided Thursday afternoon, causing both vehicles to crash into the Leithsville Volunteer Fire Company's firehouse in Lower Saucon Twp., Northampton Co., said officials, who aren't sure where or how the car and truck hit each other.  

"You always see it happening elsewhere, but when it comes close to home, it really shakes you up inside," said neighbor Jamie Wright.

State police have been working to recreate the route the truck took prior to the crash.

The Northampton County coroner has not yet released the name of the man who died in the car, but he did say the victim lived in the area.

The driver of the dump truck, Michael Thomas, 42, was last listed in stable condition at Lehigh Valley Hospital near Allentown.

The Lower Saucon Twp. Police Department is asking for anyone who may have witnessed the accident to call the non-emergency number at 610-759-2200.

As for the fire company, which was set to merge with the Se-Wy-Co Fire Company on June 1, it lost three pieces of valuable equipment in the fire.

"Very sad," said Chief Thomas Barndt, Se-Wy-Cc Fire Company. "It's a sad day in the fire department anywhere when your fire department burns, your station's gone, and all your equipment is gone, because you work so hard with so little time to make it go."

The merger was designed to increase manpower and save money on equipment for both Lower Saucon Township fire stations.

Se-Wy-Co sold a tanker, an engine and a brush fire truck, thinking it would take over the equipment from Leithsville. Those replacements went up in flames Thursday.

"Watching it burn and seeing the devastation on every one of my neighbor's faces and feeling it myself, it's hard. It's really hard," said Wright.

"I hope they rebuild it so that we have protection on this end of the township," said Joe Lengyel, owner, Lengyel Auto Detail.

Combined, the fire companies lost half their firefighting equipment, but the chief said the community shouldn't worry because there will be plenty of coverage, and help from all over the state."

"It's a brotherhood," said Barndt. "I've had phone calls from people in the western part of the state, actually the Pennsylvania state fire commissioner called me yesterday, wished me his condolences and offered apparatus and equipment for the firefighters."

The firefighters will also get help via mutual aid agreements, and the Northampton County dispatch has agreed to send more service vehicles until the station has its full complement of vehicles.

Leithsville Fire Company [map]

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