Deputy Chief Brian Mandak, who was one of the first people on the scene at 701 E. Diamond Ave. at 6:40 a.m., said he and the other men used a children's playset in the backyard to rescue Ryleigh from a second-floor window at the rear of the home as flames raged at the front.
A neighbor, Ronald Rodriguez, then came with a ladder, which Mandak used to rescue Amanda Yanac, he said. Yanac's husband, Robert, wasn't home when the fire broke out, Mandak said.
Both mother and daughter initially were taken to Hazleton General Hospital for treatment. Doctors later transferred them to Lehigh Valley Hospital, according to Deputy Chief Shawn Jones. Amanda Yanac was taken by ambulance while her daughter was flown to the trauma center, Jones said.
Hazleton's Engine 5, which came from the Diamond station, was the first firetruck to arrive and firefighters quickly extinguished the fire, Jones said.
A state police fire marshal was called to investigate the fire at the home at the corner of Diamond Avenue and Harrison Street.
Jones said the fire was determined to be accidental, caused by an electrical malfunction due to a coiled-up heavy-duty extension cord under a couch and loveseat, connected to a heater.
"Considering the amount of fire we had here, the guys did a good job," Fire Chief Donald Leshko said.
Denise Kaschak, a neighbor, witnessed the rescue and called the men heroes. She spoke to two of the men afterwards, and they told her that they normally drive home from work on the interstate, but for some reason took a different route.
The men told her they thought they saw Christmas lights in the house as they drove by, and doubled back and saw the house was on fire, Kaschak said. They went to the back of the house with Mandak and used the playset to rescue the little girl, who Kaschak said is in her kindergarten class at Holy Family Academy in Hazleton.
Then, Rodriguez brought the ladder and the little girl's mother was rescued, Kaschak said. She didn't get the other men's names before they left, but thought one was named Mike.
Rodriguez stood across Harrison Street leaning on the ice chopper he used to break a window to alert the family to the fire.
"We broke the door and broke the window and started calling out. She looked out and saw the smoke," he said, pointing to a window on the Harrison Street side of the home.
The mother and daughter went to the rear window, where they were rescued, Rodriguez said.
He shrugged off Kaschak's praise.
"You got to help someone out," he said. "You never know when you're going to need help."
Firefighters also rescued two pet dogs, a snake and a cat from the home, Jones said. The cat, which was lifeless, was resuscitated by medics, he said.
The home is uninhabitable at this point, Jones said, as PPL Electric Utilities disconnected electric service to it during the blaze. He said smoke damage could be found throughout the home, while fire damage was sustained in two rooms on the first floor and in one bedroom on the second floor.
Several blocks of East Diamond Avenue and several side streets, including Harrison Street, around the fire scene were closed for several hours.
Written by Standard-Speaker