UPDATE: The names of the victims in Thursday’s fire have been released. Helen Sweetra and her son Anthony Sweetra both were killed in the fire. A cause for the fire has not yet been identified.
KINGSTON, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — A fire killed two people, destroyed a home and damaged several others in Kingston Thursday morning.
Throughout the morning, several fire crews rushed to the scene on Eley Street. Through those same hours, we also confirmed that a mother and son, who lived in the dual-unit home that lays in rubble, were lost in the flames.
“We could hear someone screaming outside ‘Your house is on fire! Your house is on fire!'” Kingston resident Nicole Ourso said.
A rude awakening just before 1 a.m. A structure fire on a quiet street in Kingston turned into a nightmare for crews responding from across the Wyoming Valley and Back Mountain.
“We had multiple hydrants that were frozen solid from Luzerne into Kingston. I don’t know what the reason is for that. So it did hamper our efforts a little bit,” said Chief Frank Guido, Kingston/Forty-Fort Fire Department.
Tankers eventually arrived on the scene and as the water poured into the firefight, it froze and made the effort that much more daunting. The work persisted as neighboring homes caught flames.
Ourso lives next door and was alerted when smoke filled her son’s attic bedroom.
“We have three kids, so we got the three kids, my husband and myself, and got out of the house. By the time we got out of the house, the neighbor’s house was just fully engulfed,” Ourso said.
The flames reached the Oursos as well as the neighboring home on the other side. That’s where Michelle Ryman’s 80-year-old father escaped from.
“Terrifying. It was terrifying to know he was here. I’m thankful he got out and was saved, rescued by the firefighters,” Ryman said.
Everyone was not as lucky. Ourso remembers her neighbor who perished.
“The lady was such a sweetheart. She was always outside. She loved my kids and my kids loved her. It’s a sad day,” Ourso said.
Although a long and trying morning for many:
“Our family is safe, taken care of and warm,” Ryman said.
“That’s all that matters right now. We will replace everything else,” Ourso said.
Eyewitness News is told at least six people between the four affected structures have been displaced. But again, all refused American Red Cross care and are now safe with local friends and family. The cause is still under investigation.
Eyewitness News reached out to Pennsylvania American Water regarding the fire department’s report that hydrants were not providing water. A spokesperson for the company provided a response:
“Pennsylvania American Water conducts annual inspections of company-owned fire hydrants in the communities it serves. Hydrants in Kingston and surrounding communities were inspected in July, and no issues were reported at that time. We are currently working with the Kingston Fire Department to investigate the issue.”