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3 left homeless in Mount Carmel blaze

MOUNT CARMEL — Three people were left homeless Tuesday morning when fire ravaged two houses in the 400 block of North Walnut Street.

Mount Carmel Police Chief Chris Buhay reported the two-alarm blaze broke out on an exterior wall at 434 N. Walnut St., causing extensive damage to the home and to an adjacent dwelling at 432 N. Walnut St.

The cause of the fire remains undetermined.

Buhay said Patrolman Justin Stelma, who was the first emergency personnel to arrive at the scene, reported seeing flames between the two properties.

The police chief said Kelly Witmer, 37, and her 35-year-old boyfriend, Jason Dillow, of 434 N. Walnut St., and Edward Koblinski, 68, of 432 N. Walnut St., were left homeless.

Buhay, who arrived at the scene at 7 a.m., said Witmer and Koblinski were home at the time of the fire while Dillow was working. The chief said Witmer, who called in the fire, woke up Dillow’s father, John Dillow, 59, of 438 N. Walnut St., and both were able to escape unharmed. Koblinski also escaped injury.

John Dillow attempted to extinguish the blaze with a fire extinguisher, but the fire was too intense to knock down.

A firefighter injured his wrist during a fall, but the extent of his injury was unknown, Buhay said.

Police said John Dillow owns the home at 434 N. Walnut St.

The properties at 432 and 434 N. Walnut St. are not insured. Buhay said he didn’t know if 438 N. Walnut St., which sustained minor heat damage, is insured.

Firefighters battled the blaze for about an hour before bringing it under control and remained at the scene until about 1 p.m.

The fire rekindled at 434 N. Walnut St. at 3 p.m., pressing firefighters back into service for about an hour.

Buhay said an investigation of the fire by himself, state police Fire Marshal Jim Nizinski, of the Milton barracks, and borough fire Chiefs Jim Reed, Jack Williams Jr. and John Janolek was unable to determine a cause.

In addition to fire units from Mount Carmel, Atlas, Kulpmont and Shamokin, Mount Carmel Township Chief of Police Brian Hollenbush and township Patrolmen Daniel Politza and Brian Carnuccio also assisted at the scene.

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Local art instructor to present exhibit

BLOOMSBURG — Chet Davis, of Paxinos, a noted and award-winning artist and art educator, is having a one-man art exhibition at the Exchange Gallery of Bloomsburg from Monday through Sept. 27.

The exhibit, which is titled “Reset,” is a collection of 25 mixed medium and acrylic paintings completed in the past few years. The majority of the works in the show reference, or were inspired by, past experiences, relationships and world views or memories of them.

“Paintings allow me to express my feelings better on canvas than I ever could in words,” Davis said. “I got started at the age of 15 with a Jon Gnagy art kit I received as a Christmas gift some 52 years ago.”

The artist said “Reset” is an allegorical biography of an aging boomer wanting to share a visual manifestation of lingering concerns.

Davis said he most enjoys working with acrylics.

“It’s what I am most familiar and comfortable with, but I do work with other media as well, such as sculpturing,” he said.

Davis, who taught art classes for 35 years at Shamokin Area High School from 1973 to 2008, was also an instructor at Luzerne County Community College, Alvernia College and Miseracordia University.

“What I enjoyed most is that through art, I could help teach young people so many different things about life and the world around them,” said Davis.

Davis has had more than 30 solo exhibits throughout the Mid-Atlantic. His work has been accepted into many national and international exhibitions and included in numerous museum and gallery invitationals. Davis’ art also can be found in corporate, public and private collections across the United States and Europe.

He continues to work with Gilson Snowboards to produce limited-edition boards featuring his artwork that are sold around the world.

An opening reception for the exhibit will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 24. It is open to the public and refreshments will be provided. The Exchange is at 24 E. Main St. Gallery hours vary. Go to or call 570-317-2596 for information.

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Demolition begins on blighted buildings in Kulpmont

KULPMONT — Demolition of blighted structures on Chestnut Street in the borough began Tuesday morning.

“These structures have been a blight on the community for many years,” said Kulpmont Borough Council President Walter J. Lutz Jr. “With the demolition of these properties, Kulpmont will continue making substantial progress in improving the borough.”

Borough council had noted the demolition would begin weeks back, but the project was a daunting one that called for additional preparation and precautions to ensure the safety of motorists and passersby.

“Given these buildings location on Main Street, you just can’t block off (Route) 61 with the volume of daily traffic,” Kulpmont Councilman Robert Chesney said a week ago. “We are being tedious and careful, just to ensure all of our ducks are in a row prior to the demolition of the blighted properties.”

The front sidewalk facing Chestnut Street/Route 61 was caged off in a further effort to securely take down the structure in a safe and efficient manner.

Demolition of the property formerly occupying 931 E. Chestnut St. was done Tuesday by Affordable Construction and Demolition LLC, owned by Robert Knoeppel. The building slowly was reduced to bits and pieces as Knoeppel used a sizable Caterpillar to bring down the edifice.

Knoeppel said the building was cleaned out Sunday and Monday in preparation for the demolition. He added that he believed the rubble from the structure will continue to be collected and removed before moving on to the next building to be demolished.

Lutz noted it may take up to a month for the demolition to conclude, as a brick structure is next on tap and it will be more challenging to bring down.

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Siblings charged for bringing drugs into SCI-Coal Township

COAL TOWNSHIP — A Philadelphia woman and her brother, an inmate at SCI-Coal Township, face felony charges for allegedly attempting to bring 459 suboxone strips, 14.8 grams of crystal meth and 500 strips containing liquid synthetic marijuana into the prison during a July 7 visit.

Nancy Marie Minnick, 39, and John Edward Minnick, 36, have been charged with felony counts of possession with an intent to deliver a controlled substance and contraband. An arrest warrant has been issued for Nancy Minnick by Magisterial Judge John Gembic III.

According to state police, Nancy Minnick hid the drugs in her armpit and John Minnick grabbed them while taking a picture and snuck them into his jumpsuit, inserting them into his body. The exchange was witnessed on visitation room surveillance.

John Minnick was placed in a dry cell, where the drugs were recovered on July 13-14.

John Minnick told police he was propositioned by another inmate to make money and he initially declined but later consulted with Nancy, who told him she would do whatever he needed her to do. Nancy was given the phone number of the inmate her brother had spoken to in order to arrange bringing in the drugs.

John Minnick remains in custody at SCI-Coal Township.

Becky Lock / Seth Johnson/Roadside Attractions/Armory Films 

Jack Gottsagen, left, and Shia LaBeouf star in "The Peanut Butter Falcon."