WEST PITTSTON — Residents are reaching out to a fellow neighbor who lost his home to fire last month.
The West Pittston Neighborhood Crime Watch is sponsoring a fund drive to help Jim Norton, whose Franklin Street house was destroyed in a Jan. 28 blaze.
“He lost his house and the contents of his house along with an antique gun collection,” said Becky Didgeon, secretary of the crime watch. “He had no insurance to cover the loss.”
According to West Pittston Mayor Tony Denisco, the neighborhood was very eager to do whatever they could to assist Norton. “The next day it seemed like everyone in the municipality wanted to help,” he said. “They wanted to give him a hand.”
“My husband and I went over for a little and did what we could,” said Didgeon. “There (were) a lot of people helping for the next few days.”
There have already been donations of clothing coming in for Norton and some crime watch members supplied a storage shed, available for the next nine months to hold whatever else is donated, according to Didgeon.
Norton, a 76 year-old U.S. Army veteran, was diagnosed with cancer just days before his home of over 40 years was destroyed, according to the fund drive flyer.
“We wish him good health, that’s the most important thing,” said West Pittston Police Sgt. Michael Turner. “Hopefully everything these people are doing will help take some weight off his shoulders.”
Borough Fire Chief John Hood said the fire crew pulled around the corner to Norton’s house on Jan. 28 to see heavy smoke and fire pouring out from inside of the residence. “Flames were blowing 5 to 6 feet out the windows,” he said.
“We were dispatched for a structure fire with entrapment and right away the adrenaline gets going,” said Hood.
Hood said the crew got geared up to go in even with the crackling sound of ammunition exploding inside the structure. “We heard it as we were coming up,” he said. “We had to cool it down and get Mr. Norton out.”
According to the Times Leader, Norton was not at home at the time but showed up later and let the crew know what was in the house.
“They did an excellent job of keeping the blaze to one structure,” said Denisco. “Give a lot of credit to Chief John Hood.”
Didgeon said the West Pittston Neighborhood Crime Watch has over 1,000 active members on Facebook and the officials meet bi-monthly.
“We do whatever we can to help out the community,” explained Didgeon.
Turner said the crime watch was reactivated in July 2015 to help get the community more involved and it has been going well. “That’s the thing about West Pittston,” he said. “When tough times come, the community steps up.”
Didgeon said a “Baggin’ for Charity” event will be held at the West Pittston Gerrity’s the weekend of Feb. 20 and all the funds raised will go to Norton. “Stop by over the weekend at Gerrty’s or go to the PNC to donate to the Jim Norton Fire Fund,” she said.
Norton’s family is also asking for help with building supplies, like gift cards for Lowes, according Didgeon.
Nathan L. Boyer is an intern for the Sunday Dispatch and can be reached at 570-655-1418.