A New Jersey volunteer firefighterâ€™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 â€“ 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 wasnâ€™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.
â€śI happened to be at the firehouse at the time and never thought it could be my house,â€ť Penwell said. â€śAll I had time to do was pull up my suspenders, jump on the truck and answer the call.â€ť
Penwellâ€™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.
â€śThe house was filled with smoke, but he stayed calm and opened some windows for ventilation,â€ť 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,â€ť Penwell said, speaking on behalf of his wife, Stephanie, and their four children.