The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

October 27, 2013

Tree blown over, ignites house fire


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- — No one is ever prepared for the dreaded call alerting you that your house is on fire.

Michael and Debbie Zec received that call Saturday morning while enjoying an area football game.

The house they share with Debbie’s sister, Donna Griffith, at 1024 Walnut St., Farrell, caught fire after high winds caused a tree across the street to fall on electrical wires running to the house, Assistant Fire Chief Bill Mortimer said.

Mortimer responded to a call at 11:13 a.m. for a downed tree on Walnut Street west of the Zec home.

“When I got here, the homeowner was out front with her dog and said, ‘My house is on fire,’ ” Mortimer said.

He said he then saw on the east side of the house smoke billowing from an upstairs window.

Upon opening the front door, Mortimer said the smoke was all up the center of the house from ceiling to floor.

“That’s when the all-call went out,” Mortimer said, which brought Farrell firefighters to the scene.

Michael Zec said when they arrived shortly after that, flames were shooting out of the east-side windows.

Griffith, who was home at the time, said the tree fell, then she heard the furnace “popping,” then the microwave started to “pop” so she got out of the house.

Fire Chief Joe Santell said the fire started in the furnace, sparked by the tree falling on power lines. He said the fire marshal would be at the scene Monday.

“I thought it was getting away from us for awhile,” Santell said.

Santell explained the house is older and has a space between the wall and the outside brick that allowed the fire to travel up through the slats there, which kept it going.

“We’ve asked the city many times to get rid of that old, rotted tree,” Michael Zec said of the one that sparked the fire.

He said the city told them they would be put up in a hotel for a few nights but his wife doesn’t want to go.

“There’s family living on both sides of us,” he said. “We’ll figure it out.”

He said, thankfully, the house is insured.

“You never think this could happen to you,” he said.

Santell said the Red Cross had been notified.