A New Jersey volunteer firefighter’s stressful work duties took a gut-wrenching new dimension when he realized that the house where he was headed to battle a devastating blaze was his own – and his family and pets were likely at home when the call came down.
Jason Penwell was on the first truck headed to a Tabernacle home on Wednesday afternoon, the Courier Post reported. It wasn’t until Fire Chief Dave Smith arrived and radioed details from the scene to the truck that Penwell recognized that the address was his own.
“I happened to be at the firehouse at the time and never thought it could be my house,” Penwell said. “All I had time to do was pull up my suspenders, jump on the truck and answer the call.”
Penwell’s oldest son, a high school freshman, first spotted the fire when he was dropped off by his school bus at 3:30 pm. He and several friends ran into the home and managed to save five of the six family dogs before the blaze proved too dangerous.
“The house was filled with smoke, but he stayed calm and opened some windows for ventilation,” Penwell said.
The fire took over an hour to fully extinguish and rendered the two-story home so badly damaged that it had to be bulldozed later that evening. Penwell, who is also an active-duty Air Force technical sergeant, will be rehoused at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst.
The Tabernacle Fire Company No. 1 set up a GoFundMe page in the aftermath of the fire and set the goal at $10,000; so far, well-wishers have contributed $19,738.
“I cannot express how grateful we are for each and every one of you and the overwhelming community support from people who don’t even know us. I feel a thank you is not enough and wish there was a way to express my appreciation,” Penwell said, speaking on behalf of his wife, Stephanie, and their four children.