Joe Rogalski paced, then pressed his hand to his forehead as he watched the flames engulf his Henry Street home Saturday afternoon. I spent 20 years building this house, the 55-year-old Rogalski said, adding he renovated it several times and lived there since he was a child. “I don’t even know where I’m going to start.”
The fire gutted the home and left two township firefighters hospitalized with non-life-threatening injuries. Debris from a first-floor ceiling collapse struck firefighter Andy Shedlock in the head while Frank Colonna suffered chest pains during the fire, Plains Township Deputy Fire Chief Mark Ritsick said.
Shedlock was taken to Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center in Plains Township, while Colonna was taken to Wilkes-Barre General Hospital, Ritsick said. While he didn’t know their exact condition, Ritsick said “they’re OK” and that they were undergoing tests.
A state fire marshal arrived Saturday night to inspect the scene, but Ritsick did not yet know the cause of the fire or where it began as of 9:30 p.m., he said.
The fire started at about 4 p.m., while Rogalski’s wife, Nancy Osterman, and her father were in the home with the family’s three dogs. Everyone made it out safely, Rogalski said as he took refuge in a garage with his wife and pets.
Rogalski’s parents had the home since the 1960s, he said. The family will likely stay with Osterman’s father in the interim, Rogalski said.
As the fire peaked, flames rolled from an upstairs window and thick white smoke billowed into the sky. Firefighters from Plains Township, Kingston, Laflin and West Pittston needed about two hours to bring the blaze under control, and the fire left the home almost completely charred.
The situation intensified after the first floor ceiling collapsed, injuring Shedlock. Firefighters rushed a stretcher toward the house and returned shortly after carrying Shedlock toward a waiting ambulance. The injured firefighter moved his arms while on the stretcher.
Narrow alley access to the home proved a challenge to firefighters, who had to douse flames on multiple sides of the home, Ritsick said.
As firefighters worked, a crowd gathered on the hill above the home, several of them filming the scene with their cellphones.