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Fire destroys Pa. dentist's home

March 22, 2007|by JENNIFER FITCH

NEW FRANKLIN, Pa. - The first firefighters responding to 5118 Burkholder Road on Wednesday afternoon encountered a flashover effect at possibly more than 2,000 degrees, slamming the firefighters a few feet inside the front door but not injuring anyone, officials said.

Firefighters then left the house for their safety and attacked the blaze from the outside.

Pennsylvania State Police Fire Marshal Jeffrey Sarver has started his investigation into the cause and origin of the fire that destroyed the brick house of Chambersburg dentist Michael Cerveris in Guilford Township.

In his preliminary findings, Sarver felt the fire originated in a wood stove in the middle of the home. Oxygen introduced into the building by first responders led to the flashover and rapid spread, he said.

"When the house was sealed, there was very little fire. It had actually smothered itself out," Sarver said.

A housekeeper left the home around 1:15 p.m. and had started a fire in the fireplace before she did, Sarver said. A neighbor called 911 at 2:30 p.m., he said.

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Firefighters reported that the initial heavy smoke and heat made their job more difficult as did getting water hoses back a lengthy driveway. They had the fire under control within 45 minutes but spent hours fighting hot spots.

"We're going to soak it real good with water and put foam on it," said Scott Bradnick, fire chief of New Franklin Fire Co.

Combustibles, including firearms, were ignited during the flashover, Sarver said.

The main living areas of the house collapsed into the basement, and Sarver said a charred yellow Corvette in the garage would likely collapse through the floor before long.

The fire swept in a V shape from the fireplace up the grand ceilings and to the far sides of the home, Sarver said.

Four dogs escaped the fire, a neighbor said.

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