Fire destroys Lehigh Township home
An intense fire swept through a single family dwelling located at 3611 Beech Drive in Lehigh Township.
The residents, Mary Jo Fletcher-Pletz, her fiancé Jeff Raines and four children, were not home when the fire broke out.
"We were on our way home from dinner when we received a call from someone we know at the fire department that our house was on fire," said Fletcher-Pletz. "We got here just as the fire crews were arriving."
The house was fully engulfed by the time they reached their destination.
The fire appears to have started in the area of the living room and kitchen. The family resided in one half of the house and the other portion, which was less heavily damaged, was vacant. The cause of the fire is still undetermined and pending investigation.
"That half of the house used to be a flower shop," said Fletcher-Pletz. "My mom had a flower shop before she passed away a few years ago."
"We converted it into an in-law suite," said Raines. "We didn't really use that part of the house, but the kids liked to go in there to play with the Wii. It's ironic, when the hurricane hit [Sandy], we never lost power so we offered it up for people to stay if they needed to, now we are the ones needing a place to stay."
Although the family was not at home, three dogs and thre cats died in the fire.
Fighting back tears Fletcher-Pletz said, "We are hoping to find them and give them a burial in the yard." At this time two of the animals had been recovered.
The Red Cross has provided the family with lodging but Saturday was the final night for their hotel voucher.
"We are not sure where we will be going next," said Fletcher-Pletz. We are waiting to hear back from the insurance company [regarding extending the family's hotel stay].
Fletcher-Pletz was raised in the home and returned to live there full time with her family following her mother's passing three years ago.
"It's more than a just a house, it's our memories," she said. Several members of Fletcher-Pletz's extended family live in the surrounding area and grew up playing in the small structure and in the wooded yard behind the house.
The house is likely to be deemed a total loss although the left side of the structure appears intact from the outside. The floor collapsed throughout and there is heavy charring and smoke and water damage.
"We just want to thank the fire and EMS crews, neighbors, friends, family and strangers for their outpouring of help. We really appreciate everything the fire department did to try and save our house," Fletcher-Pletz said.
After the flames were extinguished and all hot spots were out, firefighters asked if there was anything they could attempt to retrieve from the rubble. The family had two fire-proof safes that they asked for. The firefighters were able to locate both safes.
"It is the most amazing thing, "said Raines. "When they [the firefighters] came out with the one safe that was in our bedroom closet, on top of the safe was an old German Bible that used to belong to my Grandmother. It was in a plastic bag. The safe was charred, but the bible was untouched. It wasn't even wet. The cover is wood carved and that wasn't damaged at all, aside from the plastic bag being slightly yellowed, it wasn't even melted, yet the safe was blackened and the closet it was stored in was destroyed. It is truly amazing."
Friends of the family are collecting item donations and conducting fundraising efforts via social media. Interested parties can go to the "Help Mary Jo's family rebuild." page on Facebook.