A fierce fire, fed by the high winds of Hurricane Sandy, caused extensive damage to a home at 1307 Klinerd Road in Upper Hanover Township on Monday night.
Pennsburg firefighters were dispatched at 9:42 to the report of a roof on fire at that address. Volunteer firefighters, many standing by at their stations for storm-related calls, responded quickly; in some cases taking less than five minutes from the time of dispatch until arrival at the fire scene.
En route to the call, Pennsburg Fire Chief Scott Seip reported that heavy fire could be seen from about one mile away and immediately called for additional tank trucks from neighboring fire companies. The area has no fire hydrants.
When firefighters arrived the roof was fully involved with flames, fed by the storm's 30- to 40 mile-per-hour sustained winds that, at times, blew gusts up to 50 mph.
Several of the neighboring fire units experienced slight delays getting to the scene due to trees and wires downed by Sandy’s damaging winds, blocking the road.
Firefighters set up portable water tanks near the intersection of Klinerd and Layfield roads for the large capacity trucks to ferry water to. Tankers were filled from a hydrant at Sixth Street and Montgomery Avenue in the township.
Firefighters battled high winds and rain while keeping the blaze from spreading. Volunteers were able to fight the fire from inside and outside the dwelling by using several hand-held hoselines and tearing down sections of the ceiling to expose the burning roof. While the flames completely destroyed the roof, fire damage to areas below the ceiling was minimal but water damage was significant.
According to Upper Hanover Fire Marshal Jeff Ashman, “The fire started when high winds blew over a tree that landed on the home’s electrical service line and pulled it onto the roof of the house.” Ashman estimated the damage at “greater than $300,000.”
Seip reported that “Shortly after the downed power line touched off the fire, a nearby transformer blew, eliminating an electrical hazard while fighting the fire.”
Both Ashman and Seip commended the firefighters for doing a great job, under adverse conditions, of containing the bulk of the fire to the roof.
Montgomery County records list David and Marlene Jasper as the owners. No injuries were reported. Two dogs and a cat escaped the blaze; however, two cats are still missing.
Due to the weather conditions, aid options for the Jaspers were limited. Ashman and Seip called upon Pennsburg Fire Company Chaplain Jay Miles for help in that area.
After exploring some options, the Jaspers decided to spend Monday night at the home of Marlene’s brother in Hellertown. Storm-related road closures throughout the area cast a doubt as to whether or not the trip could be completed.
Miles, who also serves as a firefighter, offered to have the Jaspers follow his personal vehicle for the ride to Hellertown. Asked about his decision to make the ride to Hellertown Miles replied, “The folks needed help getting around the detours and I’m thankful that I work with such a great group of volunteers that they can cover for me and free me up to do something like this.”
When the travelers arrived in Quakertown, a volunteer from the West End Fire Company advised them of numerous detours on the road to Hellertown. Rather than try and explain the details of the tricky detours, the West End volunteer took over the lead role and had the Jaspers follow him around them.
Firefighters and fire police were on the scene until around 1 a.m. Route 663 (Layfield Road) was closed from Montgomery Avenue to Knight Road during the incident.
Assisting Pennsburg at the scene were volunteers from East Greenville, Red Hill, Boyertown, Hereford, and Trumbauersville.
Additional tanker trucks responded from Eastern Berks, Green Lane, Milford Township, Upper Frederick and Upper Salford fire companies.
An emergency medical service unit from Upper Perkiomen Ambulance also responded.