Fire Forces Changes to Memorial Day Plans

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BLAKELY -- A fire in Blakely forced the community in Lackawanna County to change its Memorial Day plans. A service at a cemetery in Peckville went ahead as planned, but the parade had to be cancelled.

The Memorial Day parade was supposed to go down Main Street in Peckville. Police cruisers and fire trucks were supposed to lead veterans down the street to cheering crowds.

But, the parade had to be cancelled because of an intense three-alarm fire that broke out just after 4 a.m. on Monday. All of Blakely borough's public safety workers and equipment responded to the fire on Fourth Street.

Blakely's mayor called the decision to cancel the parade difficult, but necessary. With every single police unit tied up at the fire, it left no one to control traffic and keep drivers from driving onto the parade route.

At a small cemetery just off the parade route, veterans led a special service honoring the sacrifice of Corporal John Shopa, a Peckville native who died in combat in World War II.

"What were the chances people were going to cancel these observances?" said Peter Puhalla of Peckville. "There was no chance at all. We were going to be here."

Puhalla is a Vietnam veteran who says the community can skip a parade, but it can never overlook the sacrifices of those honored on Memorial Day.

The observance meant everything to Shopa's living relatives.

"It's great to know they haven't forgotten," said Shopa's brother, Peter. "We live in the greatest country on earth."