People who knew Margaret Pelc described her as a fighter and survivor after she had suffered a rash of serious health problems in recent years.
The 64-year-old woman known by friends and neighbors as “Peggy” died early Wednesday morning and her son was badly burned when fire ripped through their Cecil Township home, authorities said.
Geoffrey Pelc, 34, told Cecil Township police he was doing laundry when he noticed sparks and then a fire. He was able to get out of the house, but suffered severe burns on his arms and back.
Cecil No. 3 fire Chief Ed Povirk said firefighters were dispatched about 3:15 a.m. and found the home at 51 Laurel Hill Road engulfed in flames. He said his crew and firefighters from Midway and McDonald struggled to control the “heavy fire” in the freezing temperatures.
Geoffrey Pelc was taken by ambulance to UPMC-Mercy hospital in Pittsburgh for treatment, although workers there would not release his condition. Stephen Pelc, the woman’s husband, was at his job with the Port Authority of Allegheny County during the blaze and came home to find his home destroyed.
Margaret Pelc suffered a stroke several years ago, but had rehabilitated so she could drive again. She was most recently battling breast cancer before the fire.
Jack Howell, a neighbor who has known the family for years, described them as “good people” and said the news was difficult to accept for the neighborhood.
“They’re good, hard-working people,” Howell said. “It’s just sad to see.”
Howell previously worked with Stephen Pelc at USAirways and tried to comfort him at the scene while firefighters searched for his wife.
“I mean, what do you say to a guy?” Howell said. “I don’t know how a guy comes home from work and handles that.”
The ranch, brick house collapsed on one side and crews needed to use an excavator to pull rubble from the scene so firefighters could search for Pelc.
Povirk said they found her body about 8:30 a.m. in the living room, where she apparently was sleeping on a couch.
The state police fire marshal is investigating the cause of the fire, and Cecil Township police said the fire does not appear to be suspicious.
An autopsy is scheduled to determine Pelc’s cause of death.