AVOCA — The Rev. Travis Nebeker and his family had lived in their Main Street apartment only for a few weeks when flames chased them out Sunday afternoon.
The family of five had recently moved to Avoca from Evanston, Wyo., when Nebeker took an assistant pastor’s position with Moosic Alliance Community Church, one church member said at the scene.
Crews from five area fire departments were first dispatched at 2:45 p.m. to the home, which used to be the parsonage for St. John’s Primitive Methodist Church along Main Street. Photos posted to the Luzerne County Fire Companies Facebook page show a thick plume of smoke rising from the residence.
The fire was extinguished by 3:45 p.m., and firefighters checked for hot spots beneath siding and under the eaves.
There were no injuries reported, said Avoca Fire Department Chief Chris VanLuvender.
Nebeker and his three young children were in the home when the fire started but made it out safely, he said.
Flames destroyed most of the back of the home, and soot stains spread around the front door frame, but the full extent of the damage was unclear Sunday afternoon.
Church members rose the occasion to offer refuge to their new assistant pastor, church lead pastor the Rev. Doug Jensen said.
“They’ll be taken care of, without a doubt,” Jensen said. “Already we’ve had seven homes open up, and not everyone even knows about it yet.”
The state police fire marshal was called to inspect the home to try to determine what sparked the flames, VanLuvender said. He said the cause is not considered suspicious.
Emergency vehicles from Avoca, Duryea, Old Forge, Pittston Township, West Pittston, Pittston Township and Avoca EMS filled Main Street just south of the McAlpine Street intersection.
Police blocked off Main Street to all northbound traffic at the Pittston Bypass bridge while crews completed the operation.