A concerned father, two teachers and an Altoona police officer joined forces Wednesday morning to wake and carry a man in a wheelchair from his Byron Avenue home – as his wheelchairs burned on his back porch.
Jason B. Muro, 42, said he was lying at his home at 309 Byron Avenue around 7:30 a.m. and was nearly asleep when he heard someone yell at him to get up and go. get dressed.
He said the person he heard screaming was his father, Tony Muro of Hollidaysburg.
Around the same time, two schoolteachers, Jess Zorger and Joy Finochio, were dropping off their children on their way to their respective jobs.
Zorger was taking his daughter, Anna, to Harbor House Preschool at 113 Byron Ave.
She was busy getting Anna out of the car when the 5-year-old said she saw smoke.
The busy mum looked around and saw nothing but white clouds under a beautiful blue sky.
The youngster persisted. She saw smoke.
Zorger looked again and was surprised by what she saw.
“There was tons of black smoke coming from the porch,” she says.
Finochio was also in the neighborhood after dropping off his son at Journey House, an educational facility at 120 Byron Ave.
The two professors knew each other from having worked together in the past, and as Finochio approached Zorger’s car, his attention was caught by smoke coming from Muro’s house.
Finochi said he saw two chairs on fire and the ceiling above the porch roof melting.
The two went to a side door of the house and started pounding.
From inside, they heard Muro say: “I’m disabled and I can’t go out.”
Zorger asked if the door was locked. This was not the case.
As Finochio called 911, Zorger opened the door and saw Muro sitting on the floor.
As the teachers called for help, a policeman arrived and was informed that there was a man inside.
The officer entered the building, which by then was filling with smoke, and helped carry Muro out of the building.
Muro was placed on a stretcher provided by AMED personnel, who had also arrived, and it was determined that he suffered no injuries.
Altoona Fire Department Deputy Chief Michael Hawksworth said due to the quick response, firefighters were able to bring the blaze under control within five minutes.
He said no one was injured in the fire, but there were “Minor smoke issues” at home.
The porch area shows siding disconnected from the house and there was a lot of debris on the porch.
Two electric wheelchairs were also destroyed. Maybe one of them caught fire to start the fire.
The fire department is investigating the cause of the blaze, Hawksworth said.
Young Muro said he owned the house.
An hour after the fire, Muro was back home and he spoke about the incident as he sat on his living room floor looking at his iPad.
“I ache all over” he said, pointing to the damage around the door that leads to the back porch.
Meanwhile, wheelchairs have been moved from the porch to the driveway.
The deputy fire chief said EMS officials and the city fire inspector are looking for replacement wheelchairs for Muro.
As a final thought, Zorger and Finochio agree that Anna deserves a scoop of ice cream for bringing their attention to the fire.