Montgomery Twp. family escaped fire with their lives

MONTGOMERY TOWNSHIP — Family members who lost their home in a fire Dec. 26, 2010, on Rock Run Road in Montgomery Township lost everything they owned except their lives, but continue to receive assistance.

Sean Connor, who is the assistant manager at the Punxsutawney Wal-Mart, and his wife Mary, who is a cafeteria worker for the Purchase Line School District, and their youngest daughter Katarina, had just returned home the evening of Dec. 26 when their dog, Ringo, became restless after Sean had gone to bed.

Mary said that she and Katarina were still up, but they didn’t notice the smoke.

“I, too, decided to go to bed, and Ringo wouldn’t let me sit down. He kept acting really weird,” Mary said. She thought the dog wanted to go outside.

“Instead of going to the back door, he went to the garage door, and I saw smoke,” she said. “I heard a smoke alarm, and I opened up the garage door, and all I saw was flames.

“Ringo just knew there was something wrong, thank God, because firefighters said that the way the flames went up and across and the roof — which fell down — it could’ve come right down on us,” Mary said.

The family has been searching through the rubble of the house for belongings. Mary lost her wedding ring, and all family photos were also destroyed.

She said her family also feels bad for the family of two Cherry Tree firefighters who were injured in a vehicle accident while responding to the fire.

According to reports, a car driven by Cherry Tree firefighter Michael Ray Keith — in which his wife, Krystal G. Keith, also a firefighter, was a passenger — struck a utility pole while traveling to the fire station.

Mary said the fire seemed to be brought under control before firefighters ran out of water.

After discovering the smoke, Sean’s daughter came running into the bedroom to tell him about the fire.

“I ran out into the kitchen, I saw the smoke, and when I opened the garage door, it was totally in flames,” he said.

At that point, all the family could do was escape.

“We had no winter clothes on, but everyone has been so good to us in giving us donations,” Sean said. Since then, the family has been staying with Mary’s parents, Cy and Mary Hilterman.

The cause of the blaze was determined to be electrical.

The family’s older daughter, Jacqueline, attends IUP, and was in Indiana the night of the fire.

The family also lost all three of its vehicles in the blaze, purchasing an older pick-up so Sean can travel to work.

Sean said everyone has been great in helping them in this time of crisis.

“Wal-Mart, friends, family, the local churches, Purchase Line School District and especially Mary’s dad and mom,” he said. “The Rossiter Fire Department has done a lot for us.”

According to Indiana County 911, the Glen Campbell, Cherry Tree and Commodore fire companies responded to the first alarm, and Clymer, Burnside, Rossiter, Marion Center, Mahaffey and Westover fire companies later responded with tankers to shuttle water to the scene and for manpower.

The Cherry Tree Fire Company was diverted to assist at the traffic accident that involved the Keiths.

• • •


Two events will be held to benefit the Sean and Mary Connor family, who lost their home in a fire in Montgomery Township, Indiana County, Dec. 26.

John W. Jenks Lodge in Punxsutawney, of which Sean recently became a member, will hold a spaghetti dinner fund-raiser from noon to 7 p.m. Saturday at the lodge located next to the Salvation Army in Punxsy.

For more information, call 939-9142.

Another fund-raiser for the family is planned for Sunday at the Glen Campbell Fire Hall.

If anyone would like to donate to the family, make checks payable to Cy or Mary Hilterman. On the reason line, mark “Benefit Connor Fire Fund.” Send them to First National Bank of PA., 595 Franklin St., Clymer, Pa. 15728.

Also, area fire departments have been holding fund-raisers to help Cherry Tree firefighters Michael Ray and Krystal G. Keith, who were severely injured in an automobile accident while en route to the fire.