ShareThis Page
Former firefighter faces ‘worst nightmare’ as fire strikes his own home |
Valley News Dispatch

Former firefighter faces ‘worst nightmare’ as fire strikes his own home

| Wednesday, November 7, 2018 11:54 a.m.

Rich Hooks rushed to house fires for 37 years as a volunteer firefighter.

On Wednesday morning, he rushed to his wife and daughter after learning his own home was burning.

“I was at work,” he said, standing in the lawn of his home on La Bellevue Road in Vandergrift. “I flew from North Washington to here. I was here before an engine got on the scene.”

The fire was reported shortly after 8:30 a.m.

Hooks said his wife, Catherine, and their 11-year-old daughter — their granddaughter who they recently adopted — were home. He said they didn’t know the house was on fire until someone passing by saw smoke coming from the roof, stopped and alerted them.

Hooks said his wife inhaled some smoke, but that she and their daughter were otherwise OK.

“When I got here and knew those two were safe, it relieved my stress big time,” he said.

They got their dog out of the house safely. Firefighters tended to one of two cats, giving it water and oxygen on the front lawn before it was taken to a veterinarian. It wasn’t known where the other cat was.

Hook said he’s lived in the home for 20 years. He dropped insurance on it six months ago to help pay the attorney costs associated with adopting his granddaughter.

“I couldn’t afford everything,” he said.

Vandergrift No. 2 fire Chief Steve Potoka said the fire was electrical in origin, caused by wiring in the basement. The fire worked its way up to the second floor and the roof.

Firefighters from several departments responded and had the fire under control in about 45 minutes.

“The guys did a good job,” he said.

The house, however, is destroyed.

Next door neighbor David Williams said his grandmother was at his home helping him with his 10-month-old daughter. She woke him up when she smelled smoke, and he ran outside.

Williams said he didn’t see any fire, just dark smoke curling from the roof like a wave.

“Everything was from the roof,” he said.

Williams said there was enough smoke in his house that he didn’t want his daughter to be there, so she went with his grandmother.

Williams said his house was OK.

“We’ll see about the smoke in a couple days,” he said.

As firefighters were packing their gear, neighbors were already asking Hooks about his family’s needs, such as their clothing sizes. Hooks said he didn’t know where they’d be staying.

The American Red Cross of Greater Pennsylvania has been called out and will be meeting with the family to assess their needs, spokesman Dan Tobin said.

Hooks said he had been a volunteer firefighter in the area until six or seven years ago. He had been a member of the Markle Volunteer Fire Department in Allegheny Township, which was among those that responded to his home Wednesday.

“Fire was one of my worst nightmares,” Hooks said. “I was always very careful.”

Hooks was most grateful that his wife and daughter were OK.

“Everything else can be replaced,” he said.

Brian Rittmeyer is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Brian at 724-226-4701, or via Twitter @BCRittmeyer.

Brian C. Rittmeyer | Tribune-Review
A volunteer firefighter looks on as flames erupt from the roof of a house on La Bellevue Road in Vandergrift on Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2018.
Brian C. Rittmeyer | Tribune-Review
Rich Hooks, right, talks with volunteer firefighters as they care for one of his family’s cats after a fire at his house on La Bellevue Road in Vandergrift on Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2018.
TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.