Fast-moving fire guts home near Gilbertsville

50 firefighters from Montgomery, Berks counties battle blaze

Author: , Reporter, RHughes@wfmz.com
Published: Mar 26 2013 10:23:59 AM EDT   Updated On: Mar 27 2013 07:06:49 AM EDT
Fire near Gilbertsville
DOUGLASS TWP., Pa. -

A man and his grandson were displaced after a fast-moving fire gutted their home in Montgomery County early Tuesday morning.

Flames shot nearly 20 feet into the air, and the intense fire quickly engulfed the home at 21 Oak St. in Douglass Township, near Gilbertsville.

The fire reached two alarms as 50 firefighters from Montgomery and Berks counties attacked the flames from the roof and from higher up.

"I felt bad for the one guy on the ladder. One of the firemen was up in the middle of the smoke. He was up there for awhile. You couldn't even see him," said Frank Giannetto, who lives in the neighborhood and watched the flames from across the street.

According to neighbors, the homeowner was inside taking a shower around 7:45 a.m.

"He got a knock on the door. He was getting ready to shave or something, and his grandson told him we got to get out the house is on fire," said Chuck Berry, who lives across the street.

Thankfully, both men made it out safely as smoke surrounded their home.

Nearly 10 fire departments from Berks and Montgomery Counties responded, and it took firefighters a little more than an hour to control the blaze, said officials.

"We had a fire hydrant within 500 feet, so water wasn't a problem, it was getting enough manpower for the size of the fire," said Chief Rick Smith, Gilbertsville Fire and Rescue Co.

The top of the garage was ripped off, and ash and charred wood were all that remained of the home.

The fire started on the first floor in the back of the home near a wood stove, and officials believe the cause is electrical, said Smith.

"When I first saw it, my heart broke for him because all the memories they're going to lose," said Brenda McAuley, who was going door to door collecting clothing.

Neighbors were pitching in to help the victims, and by noon Tuesday, they already had several bags of supplies.

The American Red Cross' southeastern Pennsylvania chapter is also providing food, clothing, and shelter to the family.

The fire is still under investigation.