IN THE COLD, A RAGING FIRE
Firefighter suffers burns, 11 tenants displaced in blaze
WEST HAZLETON — One firefighter suffered second-degree burns battling a blaze that destroyed an apartment building and chased 11 tenants into the cold at North Fourth and East Green streets Saturday night, the borough’s fire chief said.
A state police fire marshal is investigating the cause of a fire that tore through a five-unit apartment building at 101-103 E. Green St. at 8:26 p.m. Saturday, West Hazleton Fire Chief Richard Sparks said.
Firefighters from three counties responded to the blaze and worked for about 2½ hours to get fast-spreading flames under control, Sparks said.
The fire spread rapidly due to the balloon framing of the building and false ceilings, Sparks said. Cold temperatures caused lines and equipment to freeze, he said.
“We had a difficult time getting water into the voids and spaces,” he said.
Crews that first arrived on scene were greeted with heavy flames, and Sparks said firefighters were ordered out of the building when part of the third floor began collapsing after about a half-hour after crews began fighting the blaze. Firefighters used hoses and three ladder trucks while attacking flames from the exterior.
“This was the most spectacular fire we’ve had in the borough for years,” Sparks said Sunday while surveying the scene. “We had very heavy fire conditions upon arrival.”
Firefighters and borough police rescued one woman
from the first floor of the 103 side of the building, Sparks said. The woman initially refused to leave and couldn’t find her way out after realizing the severity of the situation, he said. Emergency responders who conducted an initial search of the building led her to safety.
None of the 11 tenants were injured, but Sparks said that one firefighter from Hazleton City suffered second-degree burns to his ears and neck. He was treated at Lehigh Valley Hospital Hazleton and “will be OK,” Sparks said.
Although officials are investigating a cause, Sparks said that the origin appears “suspicious.” A state police fire marshal was on scene Sunday and worked with borough police to collect evidence, the chief said. Sparks said that officials didn’t spend too much time inside the building Sunday due to structural concerns, but said investigators determined that the fire started on the second floor on the 103 side.
Charred remains of the building, including remnants of a chimney, are “quite unstable,” the chief said.
Code Enforcement Officer Diane Panzarella condemned the building on Sunday, and an insurance company boarded the property to keep people out, Sparks said.
He credited firefighters for working to prevent the fire from spreading to a neighboring home at 105 E. Green, which suffered minimal damage.
“The firefighters did an outstanding job in stopping exposure,” he said.
Sparks expressed gratitude for the local American Red Cross, which put most of the 11 tenants up at local motels. One or two of the tenants stayed with neighbors, he said. Red Cross officials also provided food and coffee for firefighters while the Fourth Street Pub, which is about a half-block from the apartment building, opened its doors and provided coffee and food for the tenants, he said.
The apartment building is owned by residents of Brooklyn, New York, who Sparks described as “good people” who expressed remorse when learning of the blaze.
None of the tenants had renter’s insurance.
Sparks said the building must be demolished. Streets department crews closed part of North Fourth Street, between Green and Hemlock streets — which was littered with charred building materials Sunday. Borough streets crews are expected to reopen the street today after the debris is removed, Sparks said.
The chief commended fire and EMS crews for the quick response.
Firefighters from Hazleton, Hazle Twp., McAdoo, Freeland, Sugarloaf Twp., Valley Regional and Lehigh & Lausanne fire companies assisted West Hazleton fire crews. Lehigh Valley EMS and Sugarloaf Twp. EMS also responded.
“They all did a fantastic job,” Sparks said. “I can’t be more thankful for their effort.”
Firefighters remained on scene until about 3:45 a.m. Sunday. Borough crews were called back to the apartment building after police notice smoke at around 4:50 a.m. Sunday, Sparks said. Crews used a ladder truck to make quick work of a hot spot early Sunday, he said.
A firefighter looks beyond West Hazleton’s ladder truck at the fire raging through the roof Saturday. Eleven people lived in the building at 101-103 E. Green St., and multiple fire crews responded to the scene.
Flames shoot through the roof of the apartment building.
Saturday’s blazes rips through the second-floor apartments. None of the building’s tenant have renter’s insurance.
Firefighters shoot water at the scene of the apartment fire Saturday. Freezing temperatures made firefighting difficult.
Officials are investigating the cause of a fire that gutted an apartment building at 101-103 E. Green St. in West Hazleton. The charred building on Sunday remained “quite unstable,” officials said.