Donations of clothing and essentials are being accepted and a GoFundMe account has been set up to help Tim and Brenda Clapper, who lost everything in a fire early Thursday morning in Scotch Valley.
Working smoke detectors, neighbors and first responders are credited with saving the couple, who were home when a fire broke out at their residence at 110 Susan Ave., Hollidaysburg.
It was a total loss, said Trevor Walls, assistant fire chief with the Geeseytown Community Fire Company.
While the Clappers were able to exit the house, they suffered smoke inhalation and second-degree burns, Brittany Yingling said of her mother and stepfather, who are undergoing treatment at UPMC. Mercy in Pittsburgh.
Recovery is expected to take a long time, Yingling said, as her mother has nearly third-degree burns on her hands and second-degree burns on her face, neck and arms.
The burns are in a pretty tough spot, Yingling said, but her mother “is a pretty tough chick.”
Her stepfather was not so lucky and is currently on a ventilator and sedated, she said. His injuries were more internal, with burns to his lungs. He also suffered second degree burns to his fingers, right shoulder and back.
“We cling to the word stable”, she said, explaining that there have been a few concerning incidents that have since backfired.
When the couple’s youngest daughter, Madison, was visiting her father, he wiggled his toes and opened his eyes, Yingling said.
Doctors are slowly weaning him off the sedation to see how he responds, but the 61-year-old is showing good signs, she said.
“We are not out of the woods yet” she warns.
It took two days to clear the soot from his lungs so doctors could take pictures to see the damage. There are red spots on her lungs, she says, that indicate burns, and there is nothing to do but let them heal.
Her mother is no longer in intensive care but will spend weeks in hospital as she undergoes hydrotherapy on her hands once a day and wound care on her face a few times a day.
Yingling said her mother was unable to do anything with her hands, including holding a toothbrush to brush her teeth.
“It looks terrible. … It looks like it hurts,” she says.
His stepfather’s injuries are more extensive, in part because he has been in the burning house longer.
“My mother was able to get out pretty quickly” Yingling said. “We believe my father-in-law came back to try to put out the fire with a fire extinguisher.”
His mother also opened the door several times, yelling at him to get out before they both met in the garage, where they were able to get all their cars out, Yingling said.
“I think it was based on pure adrenaline,” she spoke of the couple’s efforts to keep vehicles away from the fire. “I’ll be sure to yell at them, too, for that when it’s all said and done.”
Yingling said the whole situation is “agonizing. I think we have a long way to go to recover.
The family, which includes second daughter Brianne Corle, is grateful for the outpouring of support, Yingling said.
Yingling, who lives in Altoona with her family, was the first to see her parents the night of the fire, meeting them at UPMC Altoona before they were taken to Pittsburgh.
She called her siblings, telling the recently graduated Madison to stay in Pittsburgh as “they come to you.”
Brianne, Delaware, has reunited her family and is currently staying in Pittsburgh because she and her husband can work from home. Brianne and Madison take turns staying with their mother, who has a room all to herself in Mercy.
Yingling said she had returned to Altoona but planned to go there at least three times a week to visit and stay over the weekend, giving her sisters a break.
The family is grateful for all the support they have received, she said, adding “All we want is the best for our parents.”
Brenda Clapper is employed at M&T Bank, where she has worked for over 25 years, and Tim Clapper is employed as a bus driver at Amtran, a job he recently acquired after becoming unemployed during the COVID pandemic. .
The couple are strong, Yingling said, and she has never seen her mother stronger than she is now, as she visits Tim and tries to keep him up.
Added to this strength is the support of the community, she said.
“The support, love and outpouring of just checking to see if we need anything” was great, Yingling said. Whether it’s volunteers babysitting or bringing meals, “The community has been so gracious to us.”
There is no answer yet on what started the fire, but Yingling said all is lost.
“Grief, loss comes in waves,” she says, but this is tempered by the fact that their parents are alive and “we are grateful.”
Donations for the Clappers are accepted, especially simple things like toothbrushes, deodorant, towels, pantry staples, socks, shoes and winter clothes, especially for Brenda, who is expected to be discharged from the hospital in a few weeks, compared to Tim, who will likely be there for months, she said.
“We appreciate all the prayers and wishes”, she says. “We are very grateful to everyone who has offered and sent something for us. … We feel very loved and supported. It helps us and our parents.