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Lightning causes blaze at academy

June 15, 1998|By DON AINES

MERCERSBURG, Pa. - A lightning bolt started a fire that caused an estimated $300,000 in damage Saturday afternoon to Kiel Hall at Mercersburg Academy.

Mercersburg Fire Chief Nick Barbuzanes said the fire was called in at 1:53 p.m. as thunderstorms were rolling through the region. He said it took about 45 minutes to knock down the major part of the fire and about an hour and a half to put it out.

Barbuzanes said the upper floors of the five-story brick building contain dormitory rooms. There are also classrooms and a reception area inside.

"They were getting ready for a wedding reception" when the lightning struck, he said.

Barbuzanes said lightning struck a chimney and spread to the wooden rafters in the attic. He estimated the building is more than 100 feet long. About half the attic was damaged by fire and the rest by heat, he said.

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"There was a lot of fire and a lot of black smoke rolling out of the eaves" when firefighters arrived, he said. Firefighters had to haul hoses up the stairwells to get to the blaze.

Barbuzanes said water damage was limited to the upper floors.

Two firefighters were treated at the scene for heat exhaustion, he said.

"We had the fire pretty well contained by the time they got there," Barbuzanes said of the two ladder trucks from Chambersburg, Pa., that assisted at the scene.

Fire engines from Greencastle, Pa., and Marion, Pa., and a tanker from St. Thomas, Pa., assisted, along with Chambersburg's ladder trucks, he said.

School is out and no students or staff were injured, Barbuzanes said. Tarpaulins and plastic were spread over the roof to prevent more water damage from the weather until repairs are made, he said.

Firefighters remained at the academy until 7 p.m., he said.

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