20 Aug 2014
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Late Afternoon Fire Destroys Montgomeryville Home

"Within six minutes, it was gone," said homeowner Linda Carlson

The black smoke billowed above the homes on Douglass Road.

Around one curve in the road, residents packed the street behind police crime tape, looking something like a clogged artery.

Their eyes were transfixed on the destruction at 20 Douglass Road.

The entire roof of the two-story Colonial was gone.

Firefighters hit two front upstairs rooms with water; the left upstairs room was consumed by fire.

Down on the ground, another group of firefighters blasted the garage. The roof above, which was over a loft, had not just collapsed, but basically ripped at the seams where the eave meets the top of the exterior wall.

Siding above the front door was melted off. You could see the woods behind the house through the front windows.

Among all the chaos, howeowner John Carlson, 47, stood across the street and watched. His face was blank. His demeanor, calm.

He was at work in Horsham when his neighbor called him to tell him his house was on fire. He said the neighbor then called 9-1-1.

"Everyone's fine," he said. "I don't know too many of the details."

He said his wife, Linda, and his young first-grade son were uninjured by the fire. Carlson did not know who was inside the home.

He said his wife told him "within six minutes, it was gone."

"I could deal with things," Carlson said, when asked how heavy his heart was Thursday evening. "The thing that bugs me is I know I’m not going to have place to live for six, nine months."

Dave Schrader, of the American Red Cross of Philadelphia, said services were offered to the family, but while the offer was appreciated, services were graciously declined.

"The neighbors offered to help," Carlson said. "We may stay with in-laws."

He said his family was in good shape.

"The boat is OK. The stuff in the back is OK," he said.

As far as heirlooms, family photos, memorabilia and memories, Carlson said there's nothing in there.

"It's gone," he said. "I haven’t really thought about (their importance). To me, probably not. To my wife, maybe. My son is sorry some of his toys were lost."

Carlson said he had homeowner's insurance. Adjustors were at the scene shortly after the fire.

The call came in to around 4:45 p.m., said Rick Lesniak, director of fire services.

The big thing: there were no automatic fire sprinklers in the home.

"The daytime staffing at FDMT responded immediately. They arrived on scene to find heavy fire coming from the roof of the house," he said. "Due to the amount of fire, crews initiated an exterior attack to put the fire out."

Lesniak said the fire is under investigation. There were no reported injuries.

Lesniak confirmed Linda Carlson was in the home at the time of the fire.

He said the home is uninhabitable.

"The roof above the garage is not secure," Lesniak said. "We have heavy equipment coming in to move the portion of the roof over the garage so we can put out any smoldering embers at this time."

Mike Carr Towing arrived on scene to remove Carlson's vehicle from the driveway.

A restoration worker from AccuSource Services in Fairless Hills came to the scene of the fire after receiving an alert from Breaking News Network.

He said the whole house would be leveled Friday.

He said Mark 1 Restoration was called in by Harleysville Insurance.

"The chief (of FDMT) approached all of us," he said. "The fire investigator will be here in the morning. The whole thing tomorrow will be demo'd."

When asked if fire crews would be knocking walls down to investigate the fire, and leveling the home, Lesniak said "not at this time."

"Due to the late hour, we lost daylight," he said. "We’ll be back tomorrow when it's daylight to do a safe investigation."

As far as the home being destroyed in "six minutes," Lesniak said that any time there is an emergency, the time frame seems to be skewed.

"They want somebody to be there instantaneously to help," he said. "We have four career firefighters on Monday to Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. They were on duty and responded immediately. They arrived from the station at Stump and 309 in about eight minutes."

Anytime have emergency time frame seem to be skewed, want somebody to be there instaneously to help, we have four career on M-F 730 to 530, they were on duty, responded immediately, arrived from stump and 309 about 8 minutes,

FDMT was assisted at the scene by North Penn Volunteer Fire Co., Hatfield Volunteer Fire Co., Colmar Volunteer Fire Co., Hilltown Township Volunteer Fire Co., Perseverance Volunteer Fire Company of Souderton, Chalfont Fire Co. and Horsham Fire Co. No. 1. North Penn Goodwill, Volunteer Medical Service Corps and Montgomery Township Police were also on scene.

and a crew from Bucks County were on standby for Montgomery Township.


Update 6:30pm: Homeowner John Carlson, 47, said he was at work in Horsham when his neighbor called him to tell him that his house was on fire. The neighbor then called 9-1-1.

Carlson's wife, Linda, said the house was engulfed by flames in "about six minutes." The couple have a school aged son.

"Everything's gone," John Carlson said.

"I can deal with this. I know I don't have a place to live for the next six to nine months," Carlson said.

Carlson said his son was upset about losing his toys.

"There's probably nothing worth money [inside the house] but my wife may think otherwise," Carlson said.

Nobody was home when the fire started, Carlson said.

Update 5:31pm: Authorities at the scene have indicated that nobody was trapped inside the home.

The roof of the home is gone. Firefighters are dousing the upstairs bedrooms and the attached garage with water.

Units from North Penn Volunteer Fire Company, Fire Department of Montgomery Township, Hatfield Fire Company, Colmar Fire Company, Hilltown Township Fire Department, and Chalfont Fire, Souderton-Perserverance Fire Company, and Horsham Fire are visible at the scene.

Initial story below.

Crews are battling a heavy fire at a 2 1/2 story home off County Line Road and Doylestown Road in Montgomeryville.

County radio reports described flames visible through the roof of the house, which is reportedly fully engulfed. Firefighters are reportedly engaged in "defensive" operations intended to prevent the fire from spreading to adjacent structures.

One early unconfirmed report indicated that an unknown number of people may be trapped inside the home.

A reporter is gathering more information at the scene. We'll update this story as additional news becomes available.

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