JIM THORPE, CARBON COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — A family woke up to a nightmare — their house engulfed in flames. It turns out they almost didn’t make it out in time.
Patricia and Matthew Palka were sound asleep inside their home, with their two grandchildren in the other room. A beeping noise woke up the grandfather, leading him to a sight he saved his family from, with just seconds to spare.
“Heard smoke alarm go off, he says he saw the couch and wall on fire,” said Chief Vince Yaich, with Jim Thorpe Fire Department.
Matthew Palka saved his wife, two grandchildren and his own life by waking up to the beeping of a smoke alarm. Yaich says Palka got out of bed around 7:30 saturday morning, followed the sound to the front living room, saw the flames, and hollered to his wife still in bed.
“I live about half a mile away I could see the smoke and everything when I left,” said Yaich.
When firefighters arrived, the palkas were standing by the road, with their house a fire ball behind them.
“When they came out of the property they had literally just the clothes they were sleeping in,” said Yaich.
I spoke with Patricia Palka over the phone. She tells me the fire destroyed everything. Now, homeless, her family looks to the Red Cross for help. Their grandchildren are just 9 and 10 years old.
“The house was a total loss,” said Yaich.
It took firefighters nearly three hours to extinguish the fire, still checking for hot spots later in the day. Fighting not only fire, but winter conditions.
“The wind was probably around a 20 mile an hour wind once it got through the roof and the wind got it, it just took it from one end of the structure to the other,” said Yaich.
A state police fire marshal walked the property, saying it looked like the fire started in the ceiling of the basement; which caused the first floor to collapse into the basement shortly after the occupants got out of the home.
“This is living proof, that had it not been for smoke alarms we could have possibly had fatalities with the way this fire moved,” said Yaich.