Firefighters hurt battling Calcutta blaze

CALCUTTA – Two firemen were overcome by heat and heavy smoke during a house fire Tuesday afternoon officials believe was caused by an electrical heater.

Liverpool Township Fire Chief Mike Bahen was hospitalized in Beaver Medical Center after he was overcome during the fire at the home of David and Tammy Dorn, 13819 Sprucevale Road.

Calcutta firefighter Ray “Skippy” Baker also suffered from smoke inhalation and was treated at the scene but not transported to the hospital.

Calcutta Fire Chief Scott Smith said Tuesday night he wasn’t certain of Bahen’s condition but had heard he was awake and talking.

Smith said he believes the fire started with an electric heater being used in the basement to augment the home’s heating system due to Tuesday’s extremely cold temperatures. He said due to the intenseness of the blaze and resulting damage, it was unclear exactly whether the heater malfunctioned or ignited something in the basement.

The home owners noticed smoke coming up through the registers from the basement, which had no windows and no doors to the exterior. They fled the home and called the fire department.

With power outages still plaguing the area throughout the day, Smith said his department’s radios were not working and he had to tone out the fire from his work place over his portable radio.

“The power being out really made a mess for us,” he said, adding that despite the inconvenience of the power outage there was only a brief delay in getting firefighters to respond, about the time it took the dispatcher to call him instead of toning them out herself.

The call came in about 1:45 p.m., sending Calcutta, Glenmoor, Dixonville and LaCroft, with Wellsville also responding with additional manpower and West Point on standby at Glenmoor’s station.

Smith was the first one on the scene and said, “There was so much smoke, it was coming out both doors. They had to fight through the smoke and into the basement, through two rooms (to reach the fire).”

Firefighters ultimately had to cut a hole in the living room floor above the basement to allow the smoke to vent.

The fire was essentially contained to the basement, although fire did burn up through the floor and into the wall between the living room and a bedroom, causing considerable smoke damage to the upper floor. Firefighters also had to tear out a wall to reach the fire inside, and the floor joists were badly burned, Smith said.

He said the family does have insurance on the home.

Firefighters were on the scene until 4:52 p.m.