Towanda, PA – The Daily & Sunday Review, Aaron Cahall – The blaze occurred shortly before 4 a.m. Thursday according to Athens Township Fire Chief Dean Covey, who said the fire was ignited by a malfunction in a propane heater in a garage unit and driven rapidly through the house by gusting winds.

Covey said a neighbor, Darlene Wheeler, called emergency officials at 3:46 a.m. when she heard “an explosion” and saw the garage at 1353 Wilawana Road on fire.

The home was owned by Darin Tubbs, Covey said, and rented by Randy and Malinda Stone and sons Shawn Palmer, 14, and Curtis, 4. Palmer was not believed to have been home at the time of the blaze, Covey said.

“When I pulled on-scene the garage was fully involved and the back end of the house was heavily involved,” Covey said. “There were snow squalls and gusts pushing the fire through the house. It took matter of minutes for the fire to go through one end of house to the other.”

The family was able to escape without assistance, Covey said, but two dogs and a rabbit were lost in the blaze, while a third dog survived. The fire was brought under control in about a half-hour and units stayed on-scene until 8:58 a.m., according to Covey.

Covey said the home was a “total loss,” and said while the garage and house structures were insured, the family’s contents were not and would not be covered. Among the losses were a Dodge Neon being worked on in the garage as well as a small camper, he said.