HAZLETON — A firefighter was injured and a family left homeless after a blaze damaged a three-story home Tuesday afternoon in the Heights section of the city.
Emergency crews were dispatched at 1:13 p.m. to 409 Kiefer Ave. for a reported structure fire, according to Luzerne County 911.
Fire Chief Donald Leshko said firefighters found heavy fire when they arrived.
“Crews made an aggressive interior attack on the structure, knocked the heavy bulk of the fire down between the third and second floors and, at that time, primary and secondary searches of the residence found (no one inside),” he said. “No one was home at the time; we had to force entry of the residence.”
One firefighter, whom Leshko declined to name, was in the second-floor bathroom area of the residence and was sounding — checking stability — of the floor when it collapsed.
“In one area, the floor was completely burned out, it appeared. … He went to sound it, the tool went through the floor and he went with it, lost his footing,” said Leshko. “He was using a pipe-type tool, tapping it on the floor. He had all the safety precautions in place.”
The firefighter immediately was removed by personnel on scene, transported by American Patient Transport Systems to the helipad at Hazleton General Hospital and transported to Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center in Plains Township as a precautionary measure, Leshko said.
The home was rented to a woman and her two children, Leshko said. The family was assisted by the American Red Cross and will be staying with the woman’s mother, who lives in Hazleton. The homeowner lives in Georgia but has family in the Hazleton area, Leshko said.
The firefighter who fell through the floor, and who had complained of back pain, was treated and released, Deputy Fire Chief Shawn Jones said Tuesday night.
A state police deputy fire marshal determined that the fire was accidental and electrical in nature, Jones said.
Leshko noted that the fire was the first in the city to which West Hazleton Fire Department personnel responded under a new cooperative agreement that municipal officials signed last week. The borough fire company sent its rescue truck, command vehicle and six to eight extra support staff to assist.
“It worked well,” said Leshko. “It gave our guys a little breather. They did take an extreme, heavy hit while they were in there working. You want to try to rotate personnel out, and it worked out for the best.”