Editor’s Note (Sept. 25): This story has been updated with additional information shared by a member of the fire-affected family.
A home at 4267 Roberts Avenue in Steel City, Lower Saucon Township was heavily damaged when a fire broke out inside it Monday afternoon.
Steel City Volunteer Fire Company Chief Chris Snyder said the cause of the fire remains under investigation, but appears to be accidental.
The fire began in the area of the kitchen, and flames were shooting out of that room’s windows when Steel City Asst. Chief Scott Nocek arrived at the scene within four minutes of the blaze being reported, Snyder said, adding that he was able to see a “header” (a smoke plume) from the “fully involved” fire as he approached the scene.
Snyder said the husband and wife who occupy the home along with their dog were already safely outside the residence when fire crews arrived on scene.
Their granddaughter explained that her grandfather was actually at work when the fire broke out.
“The fire started from grease being on the stovetop,” said Angie Mackaravitz in a message to Saucon Source. “My grandmother also had a chicken in the oven. She had forgotten she was cooking and went into the living room to watch TV until she heard an odd noise.”
At that point, Mackaravitz said, her grandmother’s dog was in the kitchen and “she thought the dog was scraping at the plastic floor runner she had in the kitchen. She went to investigate and saw the fire spreading. She then grabbed her dog and ran out the front door.”
After twice calling to report the fire she called her husband and awaited the arrival of the first responders, her granddaughter explained, adding that Freemansburg Volunteer Fire Company was first to arrive with a truck.
According to Northampton County property assessment records, the home is owned by Michael A. Mackaravitz.
Although no one was injured in the blaze, Snyder said a man standing outside the home threw a rock through the window of an attached basement garage as firefighters were working to bring it under control.
That infusion of oxygen helped fan the flames “and it just took off” from there, he said.
Angie Mackaravitz explained that that man is her uncle, and said his action was motivated by fear for his mother’s safety.
“He did that because he wasn’t sure if my grandmother was inside,” she said. “Also he feared the car inside the garage was going to blow up. He wanted to pull it out of the garage before the fire hit it.”
The man had to be physically pulled away from the fire, which did not seriously damage the vehicle, Snyder said.
Snyder said he had contacted the local chapter of the American Red Cross on the family’s behalf in case they need assistance with temporary accommodations, and a neighbor reported that a local church–Steel City Mennonite Church–was also prepared to assist them if necessary.
In addition to Steel City, Lower Saucon Fire Resuce, Dewey Fire Company (Hellertown), Freemansburg, Nancy Run and Palmer Township fire companies all responded to the fire, along with township police and Dewey EMS.
As of late Monday afternoon the home–which is in the middle of a quiet residential block near the center of Steel City–was in a state of ruin, with its interior blackened, upstairs and downstairs windows smashed, and vinyl siding peeling away from its exterior.
Family members were solemn and a woman appeared distraught as they surveyed the damage to the home, first from the outside and then from the area of the front doorway.
Snyder said Roberts Avenue–which was closed off as the fire was fought–would reopen to traffic Monday evening.
Angie Mackaravitz said Tuesday that there have been offers of help extended to her grandparents since the fire.
“American Red Cross came and helped them with anything they needed,” she said. “They’re still processing everything at the moment. It was just them and the dog, and the dog is being taken care of at my home.”
“We’re not sure 100 percent what kind of assistance they’re going to need since their minds are going over a mile a minute,” she said.