Altoona fire displaces four

Fire destroyed a city house and significantly damaged a neighboring house early Sunday morning, leaving three people without a home and forcing another to seek shelter with a relative.

When firefighters arrived within minutes of the 12:29 a.m. call, the house at 1419 Walton Avenue was fully engulfed in flames and had already spread to the neighboring at 1417 Walton Avenue, Assistant Fire Chief Steve Michelone said Sunday.

“When we first got there, that fire was so hot we couldn’t even make an initial entry,” Michelone said.

The house at 1419 Walton Avenue had a propane barbeque grill which intensified the fire after its relief valve ruptured and in turn destroyed the first floor’s contents, Altoona Fire Inspector Timothy Hughes said Sunday.

“I had to have them draw me a picture of where the furniture was,” Hughes said.

Christopher Holland, identified by the fire department as the owner of the two-story frame house at 1419 Walton Ave., was not at home when the blaze broke out. Of two additional people who live with Holland, one was at home and was awakened by the flashing of flames, Hughes said.

She suffered smoke inhalation and was taken to the Altoona Regional Health System for treatment, then released, Michelone said. Her identity was not available Sunday.

The owner of 1417 Walton Avenue, whose identity could not be confirmed, was reported to have sought shelter with a relative. Her two-story house has moderate fire damage, in the rear and in its attic, where firefighters were able to contain the fire, Michelone said.

Hughes, as of Sunday night, had not identified a cause. It will remain under investigation, but at this time, there’s nothing suspicious, he said.

Michelone said he suspects the fire was burning for a while before being noticed, at a time when a lot of people would have been in bed.

“I was in bed and just about ready to doze off,” said a Walton Avenue elderly woman who declined to give her name. “That’s when I notice my window lit up just like daylight.”

The American Red Cross reported Sunday that it is offering assistance to the residents of both houses. Monetary contributions can be sent to the Southern Alleghenies chapter at 415 Orchard Avenue, Suite 1, Altoona, PA 16602.