GETTYSBURG — A second alarm fire Sunday evening claimed the home of an elderly man on the outskirts of rural Gettysburg.
At approximately 6:35 p.m., fire and rescue crews from Gettysburg and Bradford dire departments along with Arcanum Rescue and multiple mutual aid companies were dispatched to 7787 Miller Road in regards to a working structure fire. Arriving crews reported smoke and flames coming from the rear of the residence as they started an interior attack on the blaze and called for a second alarm.
Resident of the property, 78-year-old Leon Howard, had just returned home from a care facility earlier in the day where he was recovering from open-heart surgery.
“I just got home this morning,” Howard said. “I have lived here for years. This is home to me, where I was happy.”
Neighbor and good Samaritan Cathy Baldwin, who noticed the home on fire, rushed to help Howard.
“I found him on the roof here at the rear of the house. It wasn’t long after I helped him down that the roof collapsed were he was standing,” Baldwin said. “He just kept trying to get back inside the house after that. I had to go in, pick him up and carry him out. I was so afraid that I was going to hurt him, but I knew I had to get him out. The smoke was so black and thick; I didn’t know what else to do.”
According to Gettysburg Rural Fire Department Assistant Chief Jeff Unger, the fire is thought to have started in the rear of the residence as a result of the use of a wood burning stove.
Howard, who thinks he lost almost everything he owned to the fire, denied assistance from the American Red Cross, adding that he has family who he believes will take him in.
The fire will remain under investigation by the Gettysburg Rural Fire Department.