Family displaced when house burns in Berks

Homeowner credits ringing doorbell for waking him, his wife

Posted: 4:24 AM EST Dec 24, 2013   Updated: 6:28 PM EDT Aug 27, 2013

Many call it a miracle after a husband and wife escaped from their burning home early Tuesday morning.

The 2-alarm fire broke out around 2:30 a.m. in the 1200 block of Sportsman Road in South Heidelberg Twp., Berks Co.

"We were sleeping and all of a sudden the doorbell rang, and we got up and went out in the kitchen and there was fire in the garage, and it was just engulfed and coming into the kitchen already," said James Herr, who lived in the home with his wife for the past 41 years.

Herr said that doorbell saved their lives. He and his wife had only seconds to get out before flames and smoke quickly overtook their home.

"Nobody was around. It must have been the Lord who rang it to get us awake, but then we got out and there was no one around," said Herr.

The fire drew a massive response, but not even the help from firefighters and tanker trucks across Berks, Lancaster and Lebanon counties could avert the tragedy. The home was ruled a total loss, and damages were estimated at more than $150,000, said officials.

"Because of the large amount of fire that was there, and they didn't have any working smoke detectors in the house, they were very lucky," said John Weidner, fire commissioner for the Western Berks Fire Dept.

According to Weidner, it took more than 100 firefighters to bring the blaze under control. He said it started in the garage, but he has not been able to determine an exact cause.

What was left of the family's belongings were left littered across their front lawn. A photo album, filled with years of memories, was filled with ash and smoke.

Tracie Ramos woke up to what sounded like an explosion and saw the orange glow from her window across the street. She was just thankful the couple made it out alive.

"A doorbell woke them up and they know it was the Lord God, and there's a miracle. It's a miracle. It just is," said Ramos.

The couple's home was torn down Tuesday afternoon, but they plan to rebuild after a miracle on Sportsman Road.