Community assists fire victims
This is a heartwarming story about Emmaus Fire Department volunteers who went way beyond just putting out a fire.
The firefighters were called about 12:40 a.m. Dec. 31, 2012, to 502 E. Main St. where a fire in the back of the house spread to the adjoining duplex, utterly destroying both homes and consuming everything in them.
Jarred Goeppert and his daughter, Jada, 11, lived in the home at 502 E. Main St. with the girl's pet Great Dane. While Goeppert made sure his daughter and the older couple in the duplex at 504, Gerald and Katherine Maury, got out of the home safely, the fire gained a big head start before the county 911 center got its first call.
Jada, who ran back inside the home to try and save her pet, was overcome by smoke and was hospitalized for most of last week. The pet did not survive.
Emmaus Fire Chief James Reiss said the blaze was no ordinary fire. It was a raging inferno, with "fire coming from every door and window" when the first engine arrived shortly after the call was dispatched.
Fire Captain Matt Hahn said the first crew on the scene did yeoman's service in keeping the fire contained to the one structure.
"They just got in there and directed their efforts to keep the fire from jumping to the next home, which was only a few feet away.
"This really proves the worth of having a crew on standby, ready to go when the alarm sounds," Hahn said. "Without them being able to be on the scene in two minutes, we would probably have lost the home next door."
On an immediate second alarm, crews were dispatched from neighboring fire districts to aid Emmaus in the firefighting effort that lasted several hours. Called out were crews from Western Salisbury, Macungie, Limeport, Woodlawn, Lower Milford, Old Zionsville and Alburtis.
Both families lost everything they owned.
Moved by the tragedy, firefighters began talking at the scene about what they could do to help the families.
A special meeting was called for about dinnertime at the Emmaus quarters on New Year's Eve, Hahn said. After brainstorming many ideas, the crew decided to go to the public and ask for monetary donations, clothing, personal items and furniture to aid both families.
Through the news media, social media and word of mouth, the aid effort gained momentum. Community citizens began dropping off items at the fire station and donations accumulated all week.
Of particular importance to the firefighters was an effort to determine and replace specific Christmas presents the girl had received the week before. Specific clothing sizes were obtained so the aid effort could be sharply focused.
A Great Dane replacement pet was also one of the first things the firefighters began searching for.
Firefighters opened accounts for both families at the Wells Fargo Bank, at 335 Main St., in Emmaus. Area firefighters spread the word by email through the brotherhood of fire departments across the country, further spreading the message.
The pleas for donations went viral on the Internet and donations came from all over eastern Pennsylvania and from as far away as Los Angeles, Calif.
From 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. Jan. 5, firefighters collected donations of money, clothes, household items and personal care items. The line of vehicles behind the fire station was two lanes wide at most times throughout the six hours. Special fire police directed the vehicles, keeping the traffic orderly.
The donations of items has been so extensive the firefighters have contacted the Lehigh Valley Red Cross chapter to see how excess items could be distributed to do the most good.
Those desiring to help the families can donate to the Goeppert Family Fund and the Maury Family fund at the Emmaus Wells Fargo branch bank.