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Fire devastates Iraqi vet twice

Chris Ross was severely injured by fireball during wartime in 2003; his home was destroyed on Monday.

KINGSTON TWP. – The charred wood shows the damage from a fire that ripped through Chris Ross’ home Monday. The scars on his arms show damage from tougher times.

“I’ve been through worse,” Ross said Tuesday, standing outside his ruined Cliffside Avenue home in Trucksville.

He was referring to the fireball that blasted him in the chest while he was serving with the military in Iraq in 2003. It burned 60 percent of his skin and doctors gave him a 9 percent chance of surviving.

Monday’s fire resurrected those thoughts.

“It brought back a lot of horrible memories,” Ross said, his skin still covered in patchy soot from the fire. “I don’t know how much one human being can take.”

Ross, his wife and their two young boys were forced to flee just after 5 p.m. Monday.

Trucksville Fire Chief Bill Eck said the house was fully involved when crews arrived. There were also several explosions from propane tanks at the home, he said. No one was injured.

Eck said the fire was ruled accidental but would not release the cause.

Ross said the fire started under a porch where the riding mower and gas cans were stored.

He was inside on the computer when his children came running in, shouting about the fire. Ross said he grabbed a fire extinguisher, but it was too late.

He ran outside and saw the flames quickly crawling up the side.

Eck said the fire was out of control for several hours. The flames were so intense, he couldn’t send any firefighters inside until most of the fire was knocked down.

But Ross sounded strong in vowing to rebuild his home in the same spot.

Like he rebuilt his life after June 2003. It was then that Ross, a Navy Seabee, was working in As Samawah, Iraq.

He dropped a wrench while working on a high-voltage control panel in an old railroad repair station when the flames shot out.

Ross, then 32, caught fire.

He was evacuated to Texas and had his remaining good skin grafted onto the burnt parts.

Some of the marks are still visible on Ross’ arm, but he said he’s come a long way with his rehabilitation. He still goes for checkups and is now retired from the military.

His neighbors want to make it easier for the family to recover. They had insurance and are staying with relatives.

But they ran out of the home with – literally – the clothes on their backs. They were able to salvage only some medical records from a room undamaged by flames, Ross said.

Neighbor Lisa Litchkowski said she established a fund at a Back Mountain bank to help the family get some immediate needs met and back on their feet. “Everybody is just heartbroken.”

Ross said the Red Cross has also contacted the family. The Trucksville Pharmacy is also accepting donations. And neighbor Carol Russell said residents will be making monetary and other donations.

Want to help?

Donations can be made to:

The Ross Family Fire

First National Community Bank

169 N. Memorial Highway

Shavertown, 18708

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