Penn family unites to recover from fire

This home on Sunnyside Road in Penn sustained two fires, one on Tuesday night and the other early Wednesday morning. Photo by Chris Barber

PENN – Family members whose house was virtually destroyed by fires on Tuesday night and early Wednesday morning are gathering their resources to recover from the devastation.

Township supervisor Bill Finnen, whose daughter Diane Hyatt lives in the home that sustained severe damage in two fires this week, said everybody got out safely during the first fire on Tuesday night at about 6 p.m. and went to his home next door.

Overnight, at about 2 a.m. on Wednesday, people came knocking on their door saying the house was on fire again – that time with a situation that was much worse.

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Finnen said the first fire started in the garage that is attached to the house in the 100 block of Sunnyside Road. He said he ran out with a fire extinguisher and saw flames erupting from an area in front of the car.

“I had the fire extinguisher, but it was too hot ... When it happens to you and you have the extinguisher and you can’t get it out, it hurts,” he said.

Nonetheless, the West Grove Fire Company came and got it under control by 9 p.m., according to Fire Marshal Russ Kilmer.

With the family safe at Finnen’s home, they went to bed but were awakened by neighbors and told of fire companies returning to attack the second fire. This one was consuming the first and second floors, and it was obvious that there would be no repairing.

When he was asked how the fire flared up eight hours later, Finnen said, “We think it went up through the wall where the garage is attached.”

Finnen said the next course of action is to get someone in to assess the damage and advise them what to do. He added that the first and second floors are gone, but that the basement is intact. It just had water in it, and they pumped it out.

They are considering either building anew on the “footprint” or obtaining a modular unit and placing it there.

The family is large, and many of them are pitching in to help. Finnen said his grandson will tear down the remains with a construction vehicle, and other members of the community are setting up fund-raisers.

As of Friday afternoon, Penn Public Information Officer Karen Versuk was setting up a website so people could access information on what they can do to help.

Finnen, a longtime township official, was shaken but not down. “When something like this happens, you do what you have to do,” he said.

Kilmer said earlier that the cause of the fire was accidental. Although the source in the garage appeared near the car, Finnen was told it started independently of the car.

Damage to the garage was estimated at $20,000. The damage to the rest of the house was estimated at between $120,000 and $130,000. Kilmer said in his opinion the home was “totally destroyed.”

About the Author

Chris Barber

Chris Barber is the editor of the Avon Grove Sun. She was previously southern bureau chief of the Daily Local News and editor of the Kennett Paper, earning honors in writing and photography. Reach the author at agsun@kennettpaper.com .