FOSTER TOWNSHIP — Fire hit a mining museum Tuesday morning in Luzerne County.
It started at the Eckley Miner’s Village near Freeland around 11 a.m.
The home was a key part of the historic village. Hundreds of visitors have stopped there to learn about the mining heritage of the area.
Eckley Miners’ Village is meant to preserve the mining past in that part of Luzerne County but the house couldn’t be saved from all the flames.
It was living history lost to fire. Flames tore apart the home that helped teach visitors to Eckley Miners’ Village near Freeland about life in an old mining town. One of the few remaining residents there, George Gera watched as the home he was born in 86 years ago burned away.
“Those fire alarms awakened me very quickly and I ran into the kitchen and filled a lot of pots with water and started putting them into that corner.”
But he says the fire and smoke were just too much.
“Very, very thick, I could hardly breathe. I’ll tell you, I don’t know how I found my way out. And that’s my home. I was born and raised there. You’d think I’d know everything,” Gera said.
He said tried all he could to save his historic house. A crew working nearby even had to convince him to get out.
“You could see the smoke when you looked at the house, but not much you could do but just try to get him out of there. He was constantly trying to go back in for something,” said Quin Zell. “He wanted to save everything in there. That’s his whole life in there, for sure.”
Firefighters also tried but say this historic village isn’t built for modern firefighting.
“It is a piece of history. We’re doing our best to save what we can. But it’s an old town, the pipes aren’t so great getting water to us,” said Chief Michael Stock, Foster Township Volunteer Fire Company.
Eckley Miners’ Village is all about preserving what these mining towns throughout our area were like more than a century ago and it was a house visitors would turn for information, from someone who knew it best, who grew up there.
“Last summer I had loads of people come and knock on my door and ask me questions about everything.”
And Gera loved showing people around the place. But now there’s little left to it, just before one of the biggest weekends for tourists to visit, Patch Town Days.
“I won’t be able to answer any questions next week. I lost all my personal possessions, that’s what I’m worried about.”
But, of course, his family is just glad he didn’t lose his life.
Firefighters think the cause of the fire was an electrical problem, but a state police fire marshal will be looking for an official cause.