Skydiving instructor loses all in Jumptown fire

Last modified: 1/5/2016 8:33:52 AM
ORANGE — An early morning fire that destroyed two recreational vehicle campers and a sports utility vehicle at the Jumptown skydiving facility at 31 C St. on Wednesday remains under investigation.

No one was injured in what could have been a catastrophe, since the fire was about 25 feet from a large tank of aviation fuel, according to Orange fire investigator and firefighter James Hopkins.

Swift winds helped to blow a fire that ignited an empty camper toward a row of about five other trailers, including one occupied by skydiving instructor Andreas Szerbakowski.

According to Hopkins, Szerbakowski was awakened by the smell of smoke in his camper. “He saw the fire in the first camper and ran to a neighbor’s trailer to call 911,” said Hopkins. “The first call came in about 4:28.”

The Orange Fire Department responded with two fire engines and a ladder truck, while the Athol Fire Department provided station cover. Hopkins said the fire was extinguished by about 5 a.m. A third camper was also damaged by the fire, he said.

No one from Jumptown could be reached for comment Wednesday, although the Skydiving Club’s Facebook page is linked to an online fundraising site for Szerbakowski. A GoFundMe website, started by Stacey Perry, said that the fire resulted in a major loss for Szerbakowski, who lost his car, home, clothing, money, laptop, stereo and his skydive rig.

“He has been left with literally nothing but the clothes on his back,” Perry wrote. The fundraising goal for Szerbakowski was set at $20,000.

Orange Airport Operations Manager Bryan Camden said there was no damage to airport equipment or property, and that the fire did not affect airport activity.

Camden said that Jumptown leases space at the airport and, as of Wednesday afternoon, Jumptown had started a clean-up of the fire site. When asked about campers at Jumptown, Camden said skydiving instructors, who come here from great distances, often stay there in campers for the weekends. He said there are usually between six and 12 campers on the site, during the season.

“The fire was pretty minimal, compared to what it could have been,” Camden remarked. “It could have been a lot worse, if it weren’t for (the firefighters).”

Camden said the Orange Fire Department has had training sessions at the airport, to identify potential hazards, and how to handle them.

Camden said he didn’t think the fire will affect Jumptown’s operations.

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