Early morning fire rips through Berwick home

Last updated: February 18, 2022 - 10:51am

Berwick firefighters battle this blaze in the 300 block of East Second Street in the borough early Friday morning. (Press Enterprise/Keith Haupt)

BERWICK — Fire heavily damaged a two-story family home here for a second time in one year as its owners were remodeling from extensive damages caused in the previous blaze, neighbors and fire officials said.

Steve Brown and his wife, Lori, had been staying with in-laws and were not home when the fire broke out at 317 E. Second St. about 5 a.m. Friday.

Berwick police arrived to find the back of the house engulfed in flames. All Berwick fire companies and fire police responded within minutes, Fire Chief Gene Boone said.

“Right now, it looks like it started in the rear of the building. We’re not sure yet if it began in the exterior or interior. We have a fire marshal from Hazleton on the way,” Boone said as dozens of volunteers managed to knock down flames by sunrise about 7 a.m.

Windy conditions posed a problem — aiding the fire’s spread throughout the large property.

 But the fire chief said his crews had plenty of water drawn from several hydrants in the dense residential neighborhood between Walnut and Chestnut streets.

Explosion heard by girl next door

Geary Gearinger, 45, a neighbor who lives next door at 321 E. Second St., said he hustled his family “along with two dogs and a hamster” out of their house as flames quickly engulfed the Brown home.

“I got everybody out,” Gearinger said. “We went through this a year ago at this time.”

“I know Steve was having work done on the place,” he went on. “Had painters in last week and got new windows put in. It’s a shame.” 

His 17-year-old daughter, Liberty, said she had been awakened about 3 a.m. by what sounded like “pots and pans crashing” next door and thought she smelled smoke.

But when she looked outside, she saw nothing.

About two hours later, Liberty said she awoke again when she heard some type of explosion.

“I looked out this time and the whole side of the house was on fire,” she said, showing a reporter images of leaping flames taken with her cell phone. 

The Gearinger family, which includes Geary’s wife, Elizabeth, 43, and 10-year-old son, Price, all got out of their home safely.

“My boy is a little shook up. With these winds blowing, I was afraid our house was going to be next,” Gearinger said.

Fire Chief Boone said heat from the fire did melt some siding on an adjacent home at 315 E. Second St. 

Candle mishap blamed in first fire

Traffic was detoured for several blocks away from a normally busy East Second Street, where fire hoses snaked along a fleet of fire trucks and fire apparatus.

Both Chief Boone and former Berwick Fire Chief Randy Remphrey recalled the fire that heavily damaged the same home in January 2021.

The entire rear of the house was destroyed at that time but again, no one was hurt.

The cause of that previous blaze was found to be accidental, Boone said.

“A dog knocked over a burning candle in a second-floor bedroom,” the fire chief recalled.

The state police fire marshal will investigate the cause this time around.

Leon Bogdan can be reached at 570-784-2121, extension 1307, or by email at leon.bogdan@pressenterprise.net.





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