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Sparks fly during dramatic house fire in Reading

By Pam Cunningham, Reporter
Published On: Nov 22 2012 06:00:00 PM CST
Updated On: Nov 23 2012 10:11:00 PM CST

A quick-thinking firefighter had to jump to safety during a Thanksgiving fire.  The next day, he explained what our photographer caught on camera.

READING, Pa. -

Flames erupted inside a vacant home at around 8:30 Thanksgiving night on Schuylkill Avenue near North Front Street. And things nearly took a tragic turn when the flames hit live wires causing sparks to fly. The alert firefighter had to jump through a window to avoid those sparks.

Fortunately, nobody was injured. Firefighter Ray Carl wasn't hurt after jumping through that window and he continued to work with fellow firefighters to put out the flames.

The fire and flames engulfed the back of a vacant Reading home.

"It was a vacant," said Firefighter Ray Carl, "It's connected to occupied and surrounded by occupied dwellings. So, even though it's a vacant and it's dangerous we have to go the extra mile."

Carl looked like he was engulfed in flames as he stood on the roof.

"We vent the roof to the highest point of a building to let the hot smoke and gases out so it's easier for the guys inside to do their job," said Carl.

Even though he was surrounded by fire that wasn't what worried him.

"The flames don't bother me, but electricity and I don't mix real well," said Carl, "It was a split-second reaction to dive back into the window to escape from the sparking wires at the time."

He said he reacted so quickly because he knew how dangerous electricity can be.

"You don't mistake that," said Carl, "You hear it, you see it, it's bring bright blue flash and sparks flying all around you."

"It would have been a 10-foot drop he would have been injured if he had jumped off the roof," said Deputy Chief Mike Lessar.

Lessar said Carl did what he had to do.

"The safest thing for him would be to go back through the window which he came," said Lessar.

Lessar said he's been down two men for six months because of injuries during fires in vacant buildings. If Carl was hurt they could have handled it.

"Every fire we have a dedicated group of firefighters standing by to rescue a firefighter should he become in trouble," said Lessar.

But that wasn't necessary.

"No issues, all is good," said Carl.

"Firefighters come to work everyday knowing this could be their last day," said Lessar.

They put out the fire in 20 minutes. Investigators determined it was arson.

"I spoke with the fire marshal today this was an intentionally set fire," said Lessar.

The deputy chief said fires in vacant buildings can affect attached homes. If you know of an unsecured vacant building you can call city codes to have it secured.