Fire guts centuries-old house in Exeter

Sunday March 5, 2017 11:00 AM

Fire has gutted an Exeter Township home that a history expert said could have been built in the 1740s.

Shortly after 11 a.m. Sunday, crews responded to reports of smoke coming from the second floor of 6304 E. Perkiomen Ave., a house nestled in the woods at the end of a narrow, unpaved road.


A more-compact fire engine called an attack engine had to be used to cross a bridge that may not have held the full-sized trucks.

To battle the blaze, firefighters used a portable pond system to supply water because there weren’t hydrants close enough.

Crews spent nearly five hours on scene.

“We were already familiar with these locations and had a plan in place to get back there,” Deputy Fire Chief Chris Chamberlain of the Exeter Fire Department said at the scene. “It just takes time to effect that plan.”

A 3,000-gallon tanker truck drove a continuous loop from the fire scene to nearby hydrants, refilling and bringing the water back to two portable containment ponds from which water was drawn to combat the flames.

Route 422 eastbound was closed from Lincoln Road to Cardinal Drive for about three hours to allow for speedy refills.

Many vehicles on the busy highway turned around rather than wait or take the detour that emergency personnel had set up.

Chamberlain said that once the pond system was set up, firefighters had an adequate water supply until the blaze was under control.

“It adds an extra level of complexity to the fire-ground operation,” Chamberlain said. “You don’t have ready access to water like you would on a hydrant system, where it’s almost a continuous flow of water.”

David M. Bentz, Exeter Township fire marshal, was still investigating the cause as of the fire Sunday night.

Officials did not yet have a damage estimate but said the house was considered a total loss.

While the house could have been constructed as early as 1744, it had been significantly modified over time, said local historian George M. Meiser IX.

No one was home at the time of the blaze and no injuries were reported as a result of the fire.

However, one firefighter was taken to a hospital after the fire was extinguished after he fell ill while leaving the scene, Chamberlain said.

The firefighter, who was not identified, was in stable condition, Chamberlain said.

Fire companies that responded to the scene included Exeter, Birdsboro, Mount Penn, Gibraltar and Amity.

According to online county records, the 1.65-acre property is owned by William R. Tirpak.



Leave a Reply