Fire destroys home of Princeton couple

DARYL K. TABOR / The Times Leader

An early morning fire Wednesday destroyed the home of Vernon and Pamela Gardner at 408 E. Main St. in Princeton. The house and its contents were a total loss, but the two occupants and their pet escaped without harm.

An early morning fire this week claimed the home and belongings of a Princeton couple, but the pair escaped the blaze uninjured.

Vernon and Pamela Gardner reportedly awoke Wednesday around 5 a.m. to heavy smoke coming from the bathroom of their residence at 408 E. Main St. The couple was able to gather their family pet but little else before making it outside to safety, Princeton Fire Chief Brent Francis said.

"It was a complete loss," Francis said of the home. "When we arrived, it was fully involved front to back, side to side."

Battling the fire was made difficult by freezing temperatures around 20 degrees and nearby homes, one less than 15 feet away. In fact, one firefighter injured an ankle slipping on a frozen sidewalk and the vinyl siding of the nearest home suffered damage from the heat of the flames.

The roof of the single-story home collapsed in the fire. Windows and doors removed or broken during the blaze exposed the charred remains of the interior. The front porch appeared scorched a day after the fire, though most of the damage appeared to be at the back of the structure.

Francis said no cause had been determined.

The Madisonville Chapter of the American Red Cross immediately pitched in to help the Gardners start to get back on their feet.

Francis said house fires appear to be more common in the winter for a number of reasons, including heating of homes. He warns against placing combustible materials within several feet of fireplaces and space heaters.

"A pillow can fall from a chair or a throw from a couch and land too near a space heater," the fire chief said.

And with space heaters, Francis adds, it is critical to plug the appliance directly into an outlet.

"They pull a lot of power, and the typical extension cord is not rated to carry the current the portable heater requires," he explained. "Most people don't realize that if you starve an appliance - any appliance - of the power it needs, it can overheat."

Cooking and burning candles are more common in wintertime, too, Francis said, reminding people to never leave any open flame unattended, especially with children or pets around.

"There is so much more to be concerned about in the winter," he said.