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Man not found after fire destroys home

The coroner says a man is still missing after two days of searching at his home following a fire on Thursday near Millville, Columbia County. (WOLF)

GREENWOOD TOWNSHIP, COLUMBIA COUNTY (WOLF) -- There's no sign of a Columbia County man after a fire ripped through his home near Millville three nights ago.

Neighbors are wondering what happened to him. Officials say they have searched the home on Friday, the day after the fire, with a state police K-9, and again yesterday, with a forensic anthropology team.

But so far, they haven't found the man, so it's still unclear whether he was home at the time or not.

Firefighters say the driveway was plowed in with snow when they arrived around 6 p.m. Thursday. A neighbor says he was coming home from work when he saw the smoke.

"When I got there, the house was just smoking. By the time my dad got here to start plowing, it was engulfed already," says neighbor Shane Zimmerman.

"We were hoping nobody was home. The first two gentlemen, two of our firefighters, that walked up did not see any tracks around the house," says Millville Fire Chief Robert Bower.

With help from that man with a plow, they eventually got in.

"Very frustrating," says Bower. "We weren't sure how wide... there were trees up the left side of the driveway and we assume a ditch on the right side so, if we got a truck stuck, we weren't going to be able to get anything in."

But where was the 65-year-old owner? The coroner says the man's wife died about a year and a half ago.

They searched on Friday, with a police cadaver dog to find him.

"The cadaver dog did look at various areas on the property while he was there," says Columbia County Coroner Jeremy Reese.

And Saturday, the search continued with a team of about 10, a professor and grad students from Mercyhurst College in Erie.

"The animals were in pretty good condition, so they had not been left alone very long," says Bower. "There's a possibility that at some point during the snow storm, he may have gone to the barn to take care of his animals and collapsed."

"About four, five years ago, my dog ran off, I went up to his farm talked to him a little bit," says Zimmerman.

Zimmerman says the owner was a nice man who helped the Amish in the area, by driving them or hauling animals, and he kept to himself.

Firefighters used Zimmerman's pond to help with getting water because the man's pond was frozen.

According to online county records, the property on 14 Whitehorse Pike is owned by Norris and Denise Hopkinson.

"It's kind of a bothersome thing. I feel bad for the family that they didn't find anybody," says neighbor Jay Brown.

"My office has concluded any other searches at this point of the building that was damaged in the fire," says Reese.

Now, state police at the Bloomsburg barracks continue to investigate.

Zimmerman says he noticed that the two vehicles, a pickup and a Jeep, were towed yesterday.

According to Bowman, those vehicles had snow on them and didn't look like they'd been driven recently. He says the man also spoke with a friend by phone on Tuesday.

Reese says all the animals from the barn and around the farm were picked up by an animal response team that police called, and includes horses, goats, cows, and chickens.

Also, one dog was found alive and another one was dead, Reese said.

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