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Firefighter unknowingly responds to parents' home

By: Maria Miller

VINTONDALE, Pa. -- As a fire destroyed a home in Cambria County Monday night, the urgency to get it out was more intense for one firefighter because it was his parents' home.
No one was home when the fire broke out along Main Street in Vintondale, but friends and family said three dogs were killed, and the homeowners themselves returned just in time to watch helplessly as their home and lifelong business went up in flames.
"It's hard," said Trista Cook. "You know, you lose everything you work for, plus your animals."
Cook is the daughter-in-law of the homeowners, Gary Shilling and Patti Shilling. Her husband, Bobby Cook, is a volunteer firefighter for Nanty Glo and responded to the fire Monday night, not knowing until he got there that it was his parents house.
"He went to the fire hall, got on scene and then told them, 'That's my mom's house'," said Cook. "I can't imagine what was going through his head."
The Shillings are known to just about everyone in the small town as their business, Gary's Auto Garage, had been a staple for the past 30 plus years.
"He had tons of visitors. There were guys that came into the shop every day for their coffee and just to chit-chat, tell what was going on with the town," said Cook. "It was like Garys gossip crew."
"It was panic," said Heather Yeager. "I was having a heart attack hoping they weren't in there."
Yeager lives across the street and is close friends with the Shillings. She was one of the first people to see the fire and call it in. Now she's doing what she can to help out.
"We've set up shop in the house, and everybody's just meeting over there and eating," said Yeager. "We're just housing everyone for right now, giving them a place to go for everything they need to do."
As of Tuesday afternoon the cause of the fire was not known. A fire marshal had not been to the scene.
6 News has been informed that the community is trying to help. A group of people is currently collecting donations for the family and planning fundraisers. As soon as those details are finalized, 6 News will pass the information along.

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Edgar Snyder

Washington Times