KSQ’s ‘Chalfont House’ fire…picking-up the pieces

A behind-the-scenes look at efforts to save & rebuild lives

By Kim Chiomento, Staff Writer, The Times


The once grand ‘Chalfont’ House – 220 N. Union Street, Kennett Square (rear view)

KENNETT SQUARE —  As a result of the hard work of many, today Kennett-area residents are taking comfort in that incredibly there was no loss of life, or major injuries reported,  after Wednesday’s devastating fire; that left the historic and architecturally priceless “Chalfont” home a charred shell of its former, original grandeur. The following is a behind-the-scenes look at the initial efforts to save, and start rebuilding lives, during the fire and its aftermath.

Lead responder, Kennett Fire Company No. 1’s (KFC) Chief, Steve Melton, says “We received the initial call and were dispatched at 3:46 PM. It was not until 7:05 PM were we able to declare the fire under control.” Melton says that the Chalfont fire was categorized as a “Wood-frame balloon fire…and it was a pretty big one,” which helped shape how his company, and the nine area supporting fire companies, responded to the situation.

Melton, a 20-year fire-fighting veteran, explains that wood-frame balloon fires move quickly and in a particular manner; “These fires travel quickly upwards, behind, across, and through walls…Once these types of fires get into the walls they stay in the walls, and become very difficult to contain.”

Further complicating the situation was the close proximity of overhead electrical wires that restricted the use of an aerial (commonly referred to as hook and ladder) truck; and resulted in the need for many ground ladders, both for egress and fire suppression. Melton describes the situation for fire fighters as “tedious” on several fronts, noting that they were evacuated at least twice for high heat, but credits Kennett Square Borough’s water supply for reducing danger and further damage.

KFC, together with supporting fire companies, used the highly-effective Master Stream Approach to fight this fast moving fire; which engages a 500 gallon per minute, dedicated fire hose line, to literally “blast” the site with water. The force of the Master Stream Approach is so strong that all firefighters need to temporarily evacuate while it is being employed; and re-enter after each Master Stream session has ceased.

As of late Thursday, the cause of the fire is still under investigation. Melton notes that functioning smoke detectors were in place throughout the structure, and many could still be heard sounding throughout the day Thursday.  Only two, minor injuries, were reported: one civilian and one fire fighter.

Melton also explains firefighters take at least 140 hours of training classes throughout the year; and were well-equipped to tackle this daunting situation. Melton would like to thank the many surrounding companies and Fire Marshalls that came quickly to aid these efforts including: Longwood, Avondale, West Grove, Union Company No. 1 – Oxford, Po-Mar-Lin, Hockessin, Good Will and 1st West Chester, Rocky Run Fire Companies; and both the Chester County and PA State Police Fire Marshalls.

The American Red Cross – SEPA Chapter was onsite Wednesday to offer assistance to displaced Chalfont House residents; including financial assistance for food, clothing, shoes, winter coats, transportation and lodging. To date, at least two of the families are receiving assistance. The Red Cross also engaged the services of its partner organization, Red Paw, to house a resident’s pet cat until a more pet-friendly, permanent residence can be established.

Meanwhile, many members of the tightly knit Kennett Borough community, including Chalfont House’s surrounding neighborhood, started handing-out blankets, sweaters, food and comfort to those who helplessly watched their residence and possessions burn. Missy Mazzoli, sister of displaced Chalfont House resident Jessica Mazzoli, has established an online ‘Go Fund Me’  account entitled “220 N. Union Street Fire Relief Fund” and support has already started to come in.

Those who wish to help with these and future relief efforts can visit the following online sites : Go Fund Me “220 North Union St. Fire Relief Fund” site: http://www.gofundme.com/hk8yao, The Red Cross of S.E. PA: http://www.redcross.org/pa/philadelphia , Red Paw Emergency Relief Team: http://redpawemergencyreliefteam.com  and are asked to also consider supporting the many local fire companies who assist their communities daily, including Chalfont House lead responder, Kennett Fire Station No. 1: www.firestation24.com.

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