This Thanksgiving, fire-displaced families grateful for a bright-eyed, bushy-tailed superhero

PUNXSUTAWNEY — Everyone has much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving, but two families in particular are thankful to have their lives, thanks to a four-year-old boy.

Four-year-old Kolton Renegade Powers and his family used to live in a duplex along Graffius Avenue until a fire destroyed their home Nov. 2. Neighbors Jim, Peggy and Elizabeth Trayer lived on the other side.

Kolton, his two-year-old brother Xander and his aunt, Tiffany Legates, were the only family members home at the time of the fire, said Patrick Powers, Kolton’s dad, while his wife Missie, her mother and sister, Georgia, were at a doctor’s appointment.

Kolton said he saw smoke near a chair in the living room. He then went to tell his aunt, who had just lit a cigarette and thought that was the smoke he was talking about.

Kolton showed her the smoke, and then he and Xander went to the porch while Tiffany called 911. Kolton also went to the neighbors, the Trayers, to alert them.

Patrick said his grandmother, Marian Powers, came to the drive-thru window at KFC, where Patrick works, to alert him to the fire that she heard on the scanner.

“I left work and immediately drove back to the house, and found the fire beginning to erupt,” Patrick said. “After I arrived, I was looking to see if everyone had gotten out of the house.”

Kolton, when asked if he knew he was a hero for saving everyone’s life, he replied that he was a “superhero.”

For his efforts, he was given a junior firefighter helmet and coat from the members of the Punxsutawney Fire Department. And if that wasn’t cool enough, Punxsutawney Borough Council has given special permission for Kolton to ride on one of the fire trucks during the “Home For The Holidays” parade Saturday.

Jim Trayer, whose family rented the other side of the duplex, called Kolton a life-saver.

“If he hadn’t come over and knocked on the door, my wife Peggy and my daughter Elizabeth wouldn’t be here right now,” he said. “We’d be going to a funeral instead of picking up the pieces.”

Trayer said he was at work when the fire started, his wife had just gotten up, and his daughter was still in bed. Peggy had gone upstairs to get Elizabeth up when Kolton rapped on the door.

“My wife and daughter looked for our fire extinguisher, but by the time they found it, it was too late,” he said.

Missie said she was shocked when she heard the news.

“I asked if everyone was all right; they said they weren’t sure,” she said. “I could see the large, dark plume of smoke as soon as we turned onto our road, and I said to my mom (Becky Pearce) that my house is gone.”

Despite some water damage, basically, “Everything we owned was destroyed, other than some unimportant stuff, like fishing poles washer and dryer that were in the basement,” Missie said. Her wedding bouquet was recovered, and she said, “I wanted black flowers for my wedding, and I finally got them.”

However, Patrick said two dogs, a cat and a ferret were lost in the blaze.

“We didn’t have renters’ insurance, and that’s my top piece of advice to renters: Get renters’ insurance,” he said. “It may not be a fire. It might be a leak in the roof.”

The Trayers didn’t have renters’ insurance, either, and were planning to getting it the same week of the fire.

Trayer added that his family was able to salvage very little from the fire, even though its side of the duplex didn’t receive as much fire damage as the Powers’ side did.

“We received significant smoke and water damage,” he said. “If it didn’t get burned up in the fire, the smoke and water got the rest of it.”

“People have been so generous. We’ve received gift cards, gift certificates and food items,” Patrick said, citing the American Red Cross, Salvation Army, the Pantall Hotel and a new organization, Arise, Compassionate, Community Solutions (ACCS).

“I’ve lived in this town for 23 years, and there are a lot of very generous people who live here,” he said. “We almost have a place to live. My dad knows someone who is remodeling a house that we might be able to rent.

“If it hadn’t been for my bright-eyed, bushy-tailed boy, we could’ve been going to funerals and hospitals,” Patrick remarked.

The Powers family is currently residing at Missie’s mom’s house.

The Trayers — who had lived in Punxsy for only six months, relocating from Lewistown — do have a new place to live.

“We’re still trying to put everything back together. It’s coming around,” he said. “We still need small appliances, lamps, furniture and anyone who had a computer they want to part with, we’re in need of those kinds of items.”

Anyone who would like to donate to either family may call ACCS at 939-9163.