A swiftly spreading fire destroyed an Indiana Borough residence late Wednesday afternoon, leaving a young couple without a home.
No one was injured, but the fire at 1111 Chestnut St. also damaged two neighboring homes.
The two-story house was the home of Dane and Melanie Mergen, who were married in October.
Melanie Mergen was out running errands when the fire started, and her husband, Dane, who works in The Indiana Gazette’s IT department, was on duty at the time.
He was sitting in the Gazette’s newsroom when he heard the emergency dispatch over a police scanner. When he heard his address called, he rushed out of the office to investigate, he said.
“I’ve had nightmares about that,” he said.
Indiana firefighters responded within minutes and found the house was being rapidly consumed by flames.
The fire was reported shortly before 4 p.m. by a neighbor who was alerted to something amiss by the screeching of a smoke detector and crackling and popping sounds, according to Indiana fire Chief Scott Schuller.
In addition to Indiana, firefighters from Homer City and Clymer responded. Cherryhill Township was placed on standby. They remained at the scene for about three hours.
With the relative humidity at 55 percent late Wednesday afternoon, it was a miserable time to be fighting a fire, especially one so large. Several firefighters showed signs of heat exhaustion, Schuller said, and they were treated at the scene. Schuller said firefighters cooled off in a mobile rehabilitation center and drank some 150 bottles of water and Gatorade.
Schuller said the fire appears to have started somewhere in the rear of the home and quickly spread upward into the attic. A cause hasn’t been determined. A state police fire marshal has been called to investigate, he said.
Mergen thanked firefighters, who he said extinguished the blaze in an amazingly short amount of time and were able to retrieve one of his two cats.
“They did a wonderful job,” he said.
Mergen said their other cat, Chestnut, which is white and brown, is still missing. He said he believes “Chessy” made it out of the home.
The couple is staying with relatives.
Donations to help the couple are being accepted at http://www.youcaring.com/help-a-neighbor/help-for-the-mergens/198497
[Teri Enciso/Gazette photos]