As Christmas Morning Fire Investigation Remains Open, A Son Recalls His Mother’s Heroism

December 29, 2018
As A Fire Investigation Remains Open, A Son Recalls His Mother's Heroism

Judy Howells tried to rush the stairs but the flames were too heavy to reach the second floor.

Calling out, she roused her husband, Richard Howells, and her son, Jordan Howells, from their sleep a few hours before dawn Christmas morning.

They were trapped. Judy’s arms, hands and face were badly burned but the pain would have to wait. Her mind went to a ladder outside. She needed to get there. She needed to get them out.

On Friday, three days after the fire that destroyed the family home in West Scranton, her other son, also Rich Howells, recalled his mother’s actions that the 35-year-old likened to a feat from a comic book.

“My mother is a superhero,” Howells said. “You know, it’s pretty impressive what she was able to do.”

Fire and medical crews rushed to 318 16th Ave. on Tuesday at about 3:10 a.m. Rich Howells, who does not live at the 16th Avenue home, arrived and watched from across the street as smoke billowed from the home and as firefighters poured water into an open second-floor window.

Scranton Fire Chief Patrick DeSarno said Friday that no determination has been made on what caused the fire. It remains under investigation.

An orange condemnation notice was posted on the front of the home. A plywood board with red spray paint spelling “keep out” blocked the front door.

Rich Howells said that it is an old house that had a lot of issues.

Judy Howells managed to get Richard and Jordan out by propping a ladder against the roof of the home’s front porch. Richard Howells, 58, and Jordan Howells, 32, opened a window and climbed to safety using the ladder.

Richard Howells had symptoms of smoke inhalation and some singed hair, Rich Howells said. Jordan Howells seemed fine.

Judy Howells needed immediate medical attention and within hours was flown to Lehigh Valley Hospital near Allentown, where a burn unit is located.

Judy Howells tries to keep in good spirits, her son said. She’s in pain but doesn’t let on much. She likely will need skin grafts but surgery has not yet begun.

The house is a complete loss. Not much could be salvaged. The firefighters managed to find a few family photos, but that was it.

The community has responded.

By Friday afternoon, a GoFundMe page had raised more than $10,000 to help offset the family’s expenses. More donations have been delivered in person at Rich Howells’ home in West Scranton.

Things can be replaced, he said. People can’t.

“That’s absolutely how we’re looking at it,” Howells said.

Contact the writer: jkohut@timesshamrock.com, 570-348-9144; @jkohutTT on Twitter.

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