TOWANDA, Pa. — Neighbors became the first responders before firefighters could get on the scene of an apartment building fire Friday morning in Bradford County. The Towanda fire chief is crediting them with saving lives.
The charred front of the apartment building on Third Street in Towanda, a ladder still leading up to a roof, and fire extinguisher boxes littering the ground are you can see left over from Friday morning's fire.
They were the tools neighbors used when they saw this scene captured on cell phone video Friday morning, flames pouring from the front of the building, with five families,12 people inside.
"Woke up to the smell of smoke in my apartment. I saw smoke coming out of my heater so I woke up my boys and put them in the car," said Erma, one of the building's residents.
Erma she didn't want to show her face on camera after being flames forced them out.
"I just started to panic, I'm not going to lie," she said.
But a doorbell camera shows what she did next, dragging a ladder to come to the rescue.
"Came out and there was a lady on the roof with her son. There was no way for her to get out, I just went to the side of the house and grabbed a ladder and put it up for her to get off the roof and her son," explained Erma.
Firefighters say other neighbors saw the flames too and grabbed as many fire extinguishers as they could.
"If not, there would have been a serious fire here. I think we would have lost people if it wasn't for them," said Towanda Fire Chief Bill Roof.
Firefighters had that help before they got there on a morning they had to deal with single-digit temperatures.
"Other than being cold, water being cold, hydrants didn't freeze up, nothing froze up on us everything turned out good," added Chief Roof.
Especially, since neighbors helped neighbors.
The fire chief says it looks like the fire started in a cigarette butt can on the front porch and spread, but it stopped from spreading too quickly thanks to that quick action.
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