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Stunned New Jersey Firefighter Responds To Call At Own Home

New Jersey volunteer firefighter Jason Penwell heard the alarm and joined two colleagues in hopping aboard a fire truck to respond to a house fire last week on Firelane Road. He didn’t even think twice about where the call was coming from, he just responded automatically.

However, this particular the trip soon seemed very familiar to Penwell, as it was part of his regular route through his neighborhood in Southampton.

It wasn’t until Tabernacle Fire Chief Dave Smith arrived on the scene and radioed instructions that Penwell realized the call was to his own home. Just as his truck pulled up, you could see the roaring flames burn down his family house and all their belongings.

The good news is no one was injured in the blaze, but the family did lose one of its beloved dogs.

Penwell’s colleagues at Tabernacle Fire Company No. 1 decided to launch a social media campaign to raise funds to support the family, and the campaign topped its $10,000 goal in less than a day.

The GoFundMe page was set up for donations from people who have been reaching out to the Penwells.

"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 commented late last week when his wife Stephanie and children were still temporarily bunking at the Tabernacle firehouse on Hawkins Road.

“Those who know me know I’m never short of words," the grateful firefighter remarked with a rueful smile. "I really don’t know what to say other than thank you from the bottom of my heart."

It turns out that Penwell is an active-duty Air Force technical sergeant, and the staff at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst had new housing arranged for the family by the weekend.

“The house was a total loss. Thankfully, the family members were safe and were not home at the time,” the chief noted.

The exact cause of the fire has not yet been determined and remains under investigation.

"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."

Smith, in particular, praised Penwell's oldest son, calling him a "brave" kid for running into the house and trying to save the family dogs just as the chief was pulling up.

Penwell’s son, a 14-year-old, saw the flames when he got home on a school bus around 3:30 p.m., and ran inside. His courageous efforts managed to save five of the six family dogs.

"The house was filled with smoke, but he stayed calm and opened some windows for ventilation," the proud dad commented.

It took firefighters from Southampton, Tabernacle, Woodland and others more than an hour to put out the fire. The house was so severely damaged that it had to be immediately bulldozed for safety.

“Of course we are all upset," the Air Force Vet noted as he spoke to local media the next day, "but today is day one of recovery and I have to stay positive for my kids.”

Source: Little Things, Courier Post
Photo: WPVI

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