Selinsgrove, PA – Just after 12:00pm Friday sirens began to fill the air downtown. A small fire had ignited in an apartment above Bella’s Pizza on S. Market Street. Within a few minutes approximately 50 firefighters from around the valley had arrived, but, for their quick thinking two pizza makers are being credited with putting out the flames.
“We were dispatched just after 1200 for reports of a fire” said Brandon Ulrich, Deputy Fire Chief at Dauntless Hook & Ladder Fire Company. “Crews made a quick knock-out of the fire” Ulrich explained “there were no injuries and minimal damage.”
“As of right now we determined (the fire) to be accidental at this time” Dep Chief Ulrich told SCC. The fire stayed contained to the balcony of a third floor apartment with some smoke and water damage to the surrounding area inside.
Things could have been worse, however, if it hadn’t been for off-duty fireman Matt Liddick, of the Sunbury Steam Fire Company #1, and Dominico Napoli. Liddick was at work for Bella’s Pizza on the first floor when he heard the smoke alarms go off upstairs.
While he had been visibly shaken earlier and being briefly checked by EMTs on the scene, Fireman Liddick was all smiles after everything calmed down. “No one was hurt” Liddick told SCC. “I did what I was trained to do” Liddick offered humbly before explaining about the fire extinguisher he used.
Dominico Napoli, who owns Bella’s and was working with Liddick when the alarm sounded, said Liddick jumped into action right away. “(Liddick) asked me if I heard the alarm” Napoli recalled “and I told him to grab a fire extinguisher and we ran upstairs. He ran right up and started spraying. It was incredible.”
“The staff at Bella’s had the fire knocked out before we got here” Dep Chief Ulrich congratulated the two men.
Ulrich said that fire companies from Selinsgrove, Hummel’s Warf, Shamokin Dam, Northumberland, Kreamer, and Freeburg had sent crews to the scene.
While the flames were put out quickly, the situation did highlight a few of the issues facing fire companies around our area. “Recruitment is an issue” Ulrich said, “we had eight departments here because we don’t have enough (firefighters).” Recruiting new volunteers is a problem facing fire companies around the nation. Increasingly busy families make it hard for younger volunteers to find the time to go through training and respond to calls. “We are always looking for new volunteers but it is becoming a more important issue” Ulrich said.
Another firefighter with DH&L told SCC that drivers not yielding for the “Blue Lights” delays response time. Official vehicles like fire trucks, police, and ambulances use red flashing lights, while the personal vehicles of volunteer firefighters are allowed to use blue flashing lights. Failure to yield to a vehicle with red lights can result in a ticket and fine. Blue lights, however, are sometimes called ‘courtesy lights’ because drivers are not required by law to yield but still encouraged.
“We have trouble getting the (firefighters) to the firehall quickly. Drivers move for the red light vehicles but don’t always let the blue light vehicles pass by. But the red light vehicles don’t move unless enough of the blue light folks can get there.”
Any fire can become serious, particularly in the downtown district. A century ago two whole blocks burnt down in the very same area. However, the outstanding response of our local fire companies was impressive and reassuring. The quick thinking and leap to action of Dominico Napoli and Matt Liddick made the fire companies job that much easier