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Uninsured family loses everything in house fire

November 19, 2003|by BRIAN SHAPPELL

shappell@herald-mail.com

Neil Burcker's children cried upon realizing the family dog was trapped inside their burning home Saturday morning.

So Burcker rushed back inside, suffering burns to his face and hands, to save the dog, though the house was lost within minutes of the rescue.

Now, his co-workers are asking the public to join them in providing the family with a helping hand as the holiday season approaches.

Burcker was at his residence, a one-story house at 7129 Dam No. 4 Road owned by his uncle, with his two children - Rebecca, 3, and Jeb, 5 - when a fire began Saturday, said Deputy State Fire Marshal Joseph Zurolo. The house sustained approximately $70,000 in damages as a result of the blaze, which started just before 11 a.m. after a fallen lamp ignited a sofa, according to Zurolo.

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Debbie Kuhlman, office manager at Callas General Contractors, said workers there have opened an account for Burcker and his family at M & T Bank because of the severe financial loss he has endured. Burcker has worked with the contracting company as a heavy-equipment operator for nearly five years.

Kuhlman said Burcker, who did not have renter's insurance, lost all of his possessions.

"Callas is kind of like a family," Kuhlman said. "When someone is down or needs a little help, we take care of our own. It's just the way we do things."

Kuhlman said people can make donations to the Neil A. Burcker Fire Fund account at any local M & T Bank branch. Kuhlman also said the Callas office staff is accepting other donations, including furniture and clothing. She said someone already has agreed to donate a trailer to the family for temporary housing.

Burcker said the fire began when a lamp accidentally was knocked over onto a couch, causing the cushions to ignite. Burcker said he tried unsuccessfully to throw pans of water on the flames.

He then grabbed his children and left the burning home. Minutes later, he re-entered the residence to get the family dog, an 8-month-old black Labrador named Lugnut, at the urging of his children. He suffered the burn injuries while rescuing the dog.

"I opened the door to go get the dog, and the fire flashed me," Burcker said.

Burcker's injuries included first- and second-degree burns to his face and hands, as well as flash burns to his vocal cords and sinus area. He was treated at the Washington Hospital Center in Washington, D.C., Saturday and released the next day.

Burcker continued to be in good spirits Monday. He said the fact that no one, especially his children, was seriously injured is the thing he is focusing on.

"You gotta stay in good spirits and just keep going," Burcker said. "You don't realize how fast life can be gone."

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