Hollidaysburg blaze destroys apartments

HOLLIDAYSBURG – A large fire damaged several buildings and displaced several residents in the 100 block of Allegheny Street on Thursday afternoon.

Phoenix Volunteer Fire Company Chief Tony Dibona said that a cause had not yet been determined for the fire, but that a fire marshal would examine the scene more thoroughly on Friday.

Seven families were displaced, according to the American Red Cross, a total of 10 people. There were no injuries, Dibona said.

Dibona said the fire affected four buildings in the 100 block, severely damaging two. The other two buildings suffered second floor or attic damage but were not gutted, Dibona said. Fire officials called in an excavation crew Thursday night to tear down parts of the damaged structures. Wind also played a role in battling the blaze, according to first responders on the scene, as it “kind of fueled the fire,” Dibona said.

“It definitely contributed,” he said.

Wind speeds were about 20 mph when the fire began and remained at that level for much of the evening, according to the National Weather Service.

The low temperatures – with wind chills below zero after the sun went down, according to the National Weather Service – also caused trouble for crews, as it was freezing hose lines, Dibona said.

Neighbors reported hearing an explosion around the time the fire broke out. Some also said they saw windows burst and flames engulf the building.

During the fire, lights flickered at the Main Moon Chinese restaurant on Allegheny Street where Mike Urda of Hollidaysburg was eating. He stepped outside to see what might be the cause and saw smoke coming from a building down the road.

He ran closer to the scene. Seeing the wind sweeping the apartment building fire toward the adjacent Front Street Deli, he warned them to get out.

Abe Bonner was at a friend’s home when his friend’s mother told them to come outside because a fire was spreading from a next-door building. He said he heard an explosion. In a comment he wrote on his Facebook page, he said it woke up people who were in danger.

Williamsburg Volunteer Fire Department, Logan Township United Fire Department, Freedom Township Volunteer Fire Department, Lakemont Fire Company, Geeseytown Fire Company, Duncansville Volunteer Fire Department and Cresson Volunteer Fire Company were among other departments that responded to the fire.

The water in the lines that connect to the hydrants in the area of the fire was sufficient to fight the fire, according to Rick Pope, director of public works for Hollidaysburg.

Firefighters had tapped three hydrants as of about 4:30 p.m., and there were no water problems, he said.

Mirror staff writers William Kibler, Russ O’Reilly and Kelly Cernetich contributed to this story.