Neighbors help family after devastating fire Blaze destroys home, garage, possessions in Bachman Valley

December 02, 1997|By Mike Farabaugh | Mike Farabaugh,SUN STAFF

The holidays may not be so bleak for a Manchester couple and their four children who lost nearly everything when a two-alarm fire destroyed their home Thanksgiving weekend.

Stan and Bonnie Pennington have received an outpouring of support from neighbors, friends and members of Jerusalem Lutheran Church in Bachman Valley since a blaze destroyed the Penningtons' home in the 3100 block of Eckard Road Saturday night.

Less than 12 hours after the fire, money, clothing, food and toys were being dropped off for the family, said Stan Pennington, who arrived home from an outing with his son 15 minutes after the fire erupted about 8: 50 p.m.

"The firefighters really hustled to save what they could," he said. "The state fire marshal and county building inspector were so helpful in letting us know what services are available."

Bonnie Pennington, 29, was at home with her daughters, Rachel, 2 1/2 , and 20-month-old twins Allison and Laurel, when she heard crackling noises and discovered the blaze ripping through their attached three-car garage, her husband said yesterday.

She sprinted to get the twins from a second-floor bedroom and returned to rescue Rachel, crawling with the child out the front door of the smoke-filled house.

Stan Pennington, 36, had taken Jacob, the couple's 6-year-old son, to the movies in Westminster.

"After all the firefighters had gone and I was in bed at my parents' home, I kept thinking about all the homeless people who have more earthly possessions than I did at that moment," Mr. Pennington said. "All I had left was pants, socks, shoes, coat and a shirt I don't even like."

A one-point buck Mr. Pennington had shot Saturday morning was hanging in the garage, so the family van was parked outside and was spared. The Penningtons built the house nearly four years ago in Bachman Valley.

"Chris Martin, a neighbor, went with Bonnie into the house Sunday and sifted through ashes for about an hour before finding her engagement ring that she had put in a jewelry box on the bureau while we were cleaning the deer," Stan Pennington said. "The diamond is black, and the ring is black, but she is going to get it cleaned."

The rest of their clothing, household furnishings, personal items and mementos -- including children's drawings -- are gone, he said. Christmas gifts purchased for the children, relatives and friends are gone, too, he said.

Some insurance and tax records stored in a metal cabinet RTC survived, he said.

About 50 volunteers from eight companies between Westminster and Littlestown, Pa., brought the blaze under control within about an hour, Allen Ward, deputy chief state fire marshal, said Sunday.

An electrical problem involving wiring in the garage might have caused the fire, Ward said, but Stan Pennington said his wife and mother had been standing in the garage 10 minutes before the blaze erupted and detected no burning odor.

The cause remains under investigation. The house's foundation was to be inspected today, Stan Pennington said.

"If it's structurally sound, rebuilding can begin as soon as the insurance company gives the OK," he said. "If not, then we may have to wait until spring to rebuild the foundation."

Stan Pennington has been a soil conservation planner for the Carroll Soil Conservation District for 13 years. His wife, in a program she helped set up through Carroll County General Hospital after the twins were born two months premature, helps mothers with problems related to premature births, he said.

How to help

Donations, specifically marked "For Pennington Family," may be mailed to the Community Foundation of Carroll County, Disaster Relief Fund, 171 Lincoln Road, Westminster 21157.

Donations to the Foundation are tax-deductible, said Audrey Cimino, director of the foundation.

Donations not so designated will go into the foundation's relief fund for general disbursement, she said.

Donations made directly to the family are not deductible, she said.

Pub Date: 12/02/97

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