2 families displaced as fire destroys through their homes in northern Berks County [Map] [Updated]

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Jun. 1—Two homes were destroyed in a blaze Monday night in a lakeside housing development in Windsor Township.

Residents of both homes escaped safely, and firefighters, in a Memorial Day miracle, managed to recover a folded flag that holds sentimental value to one of the residents, Trooper Janssen Herb, a state police fire marshal, announced Tuesday.

The fire began in the garage of 181 Lakeview Lane in Blue Heron Village, an age-restricted community formerly known as Christman Lake Homes, just west of Route 143. The homeowners were unaware of it until a passerby stopped and went to their door about 8:35 p.m., Herb said.

The couple, Russell and Jeri Diesinger, got out safely, as did their neighbors at 171 Lakeview, Harley and Deborah Pirkey.

Flames were engulfing the garage of 181 Lakeview and threatening nearby homes when the first crew pulled up. They were unable to stop the flames from spreading to 171 Lakeview, officials said.

A second alarm was struck to draw additional crews from Berks and southern Schuylkill counties to assist the initial crews from Virginville, Hamburg and other local companies.

Crews were hampered by the rural location.

The presence of propane tanks at 171 Lakeview added to the difficulty of fighting the fire. Gas escaping from the tanks fueled the flames and contributed to the damage to that home, Herb said.

Two firefighters were injured fighting the blaze, Herb said. A Hamburg firefighter suffered a minor injury from a partial roof collapse, and a firefighter from Port Clinton Fire Company suffered minor injuries when he fell off the top of the firetruck, he said. Both were evaluated by emergency medical services and declined treatment at the scene.

The roofs of both structures almost completely collapsed.

The American Red Cross is assisting the displaced homeowners with emergency needs.

A touching moment, fitting for Memorial Day, occurred when a folded flag, recovered undamaged from one of the homes, was presented to one of the homeowners, Herb said. The flag had belonged to the owner's mother, who had received it for her service during World War II.

Herb estimated total damage at more than $300,000.

Investigators were unable to determine the cause of the blaze because of the extent of damage inside the garage where the fire originated, Herb said.

He said no further investigation by authorities is anticipated.

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