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Schuylkill County News

Schuylkill Commissioners Express Gratitude for Firefighters After Deadly Palo Alto Blaze

Commissioners urge people to support their local fire companies.

Schuylkill County Commissioners took some time last week to express gratitude for firefighters and other first responders following what turned out to be a fatal house fire in Palo Alto.

Two people were inside the home when fire broke out. A woman, 53-year-old Joanne Rodgers, jumped from a third-floor window to escape the flames. She died two days later at Lehigh Valley Hospital-Cedar Crest.

A man was rescued from a second-floor porch roof. A Palo Alto firefighter was injured during the initial response. The incident drew a response from firefighters and other first responders from across Schuylkill County.

That day at that exact time, the Commissioners gathered quickly for a Reorganization meeting.

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While that Reorganization meeting was happening, more than a hundred firefighters were on the scene at 507 W. Savory St. in Palo Alto, about a mile from the Courthouse in Pottsville, battling that particularly nasty house fire.

It was really all the few people who had gathered for that meeting were talking about that morning.

A day later, when more details about what was happening on Tuesday were clear, the Commissioners took a little time during their meeting to say thanks to all who responded.

“The fact that that was so well taken care of and well responded to is a testament to the volunteers in our fire service, our EMS, and also our police forces. So I want to make sure we recognize their ability,” Commissioner Boots Hetherington said.

Commissioner Gary Hess echoed that sentimanet, adding, “No matter what the weather is, what the time of day is, when that call goes out, there’s always our firefighters. Our Schuylkill County firefighters are outstanding. They’re true professionals. They try to save lives and property. That’s what happened over in Palo Alto, definitely. We’re very fortunate here in the county to have that.

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“If they’re having a breakfast, a raffle, or whatever, that $10-15 will go a long way. Please back whatever you can with your firefighters in all your communities because it’s a needed service,” Hess said.

Commissioners Chairman Larry Padora said, “I’ve got to commend the firemen and all of our first responders in Schuylkill County. Our firemen need to be thanked every day. Our first responders are very important.”

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  1. Val

    January 8, 2024 at 9:28 am

    Yep. A woman died, a firefighter is insured, the properties are gone. There was some problem with water access so the firefighters could not put down the fire fast enough. However commissioners proclaim a big success. Unbelievable! The family should sue whoever is responsible for woman’s death.
    What is with all these abnormal numbers of fire in Schuylkill County?

    • Canary Commenter

      January 8, 2024 at 12:37 pm

      Really bad take. Just not good.

      This was a very fast-moving fire because of some strong wind in the area at the time. These buildings weren’t in the best condition. It was a recipe for disaster and it was. But these firefighters acted heroically and did something not many of us would do. We saw this bravery first-hand at the scene. And it wasn’t just them, either. The EMS teams there moved very quickly to do what they could and get the injured to local hospitals. It takes a special kind of person to be able to flip the brain from regular work mode to emergency/entering a burning building mode.

      • Val

        January 9, 2024 at 6:00 pm

        I absolutely agree it takes a special kind of person to be a firefighter or paramedic. But if there is no water available even a special person can do very little to put down the fire.
        Hopefully commissioners, while sitting in their warm chairs, would think of something to prevent this kind of tragedy in a future.

    • Brenda

      January 12, 2024 at 12:16 am

      i agree a life was lost the property is a total other articles it sez they seen the fire when just the hot tub was on fire nobody went and knocked on the door to inform the owner of the burning hot tub that the hot tub was on fire before it spread to the house the hot tub was outside the house there should have been time to get all out before it spread to the house . There where people on the scene watching the lady hanging from the window on fire but had no ladder to reach her but in videos you can plainly see the neighbor was doing construction to his house there was every type of ladder available there for the taking ladders were hanging there outside in plain sight. The firefighters were fighting a losing battle you can see that when they hook up to the fire hydrant, they would get one quick squirt out of it and that’s it no more water would come out and yes these firefighters deserve a medal because some of them attempted to get inside the building even with no water putting their own lives at risk am sure these firefighters are so frustrated that they constantly have to deal with this problem because in other articles people say it happens all the time in your county

      • Canary Commenter

        January 12, 2024 at 10:09 am

        Blaming the neighbors for not helping is another bad take, honestly. Monday morning quarterbacking a response to a dangerous house fire is really not something any of us should be doing. It’s a tragedy. It’s sad. Unless you’re in that specific situation first-hand, it’s impossible to know what you’d do, especially if you’re not trained to respond to emergencies like this. The Canary was there at the scene as this was all unfolding. The fire was moving very quickly due to strong wind in the area.

  2. Karen

    January 8, 2024 at 10:27 am

    I didn’t read any commissioner calling the fire a big success. They were referring to the men and women who went out that morning as members of local fire companies. Those firefighters did their best with what they had available to them. As tragic as it was, I can only think the poor woman was desperate to escape the flames, smoke and heat, and jumped. Your comment that the firefighter is insured is totally stupid. Do you think being insured is going to take his pain away? Is it going to put food on his table when he can’t work? The men and woman of our local fire departments deserve our respect and support. They are unselfish, brave, well trained, and available on their own time and they deserve congratulations. I respect every volunteer firefighter and I also congratulate them on a job well done in Palo Alto. My sympathy to the family of the lady who died. Best wishes to the injured firefighter.

    • Canary Commenter

      January 8, 2024 at 12:39 pm

      This is well put, Karen. After covering fires for more than 20 years, it’s still amazing to see our friends and neighbors act with such courage and bravery to do the job they volunteer to do.

    • Val

      January 9, 2024 at 6:16 pm

      Hello Karen, I didn’t read any commissioner calling the fire a big success either. But “The fact that that was SO WELL taken care of” phrase of one commissioner is an indicator of the big success for me. In fact, imho, it was NOT so well taken care of because a woman/mother died and another person got injured. What would really help to reduce a firefighter’s pain is increase in salary so he would put more food on his table, but commissioners Hess’s 10 dollar pleadings might help too. Wishing firefighters only the best!

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