Fire drives seven families from homes

April 23, 2001

Fire drives seven families from homes

By STACEY DANZUSO / Staff Writer, Chambersburg

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Seven families were displaced from their homes by a fire that raced through a South Second Street apartment building Monday morning.

One firefighter was treated for a hand injury sustained battling the blaze at 280 and 282 S. Second St.

The fire, which was called in at around 9:40 a.m., originated in a first-floor kitchen, according to fire officials.

Jackie Dawson said her son was the first to smell smoke. Lawrence, 18, had stayed home sick from Chambersburg Area Senior High School Monday, and he noticed smoke in the kitchen of their second-floor apartment.

Dawson said she at first thought it was a neighbor burning food, and she called her daughter, who lives in the apartment below.

"Smoke was coming out of the walls and the vents, and in a matter of seconds it was really bad," said Ebony Marks, Dawson's daughter.


They alerted other residents to the fire.

The fire began in the kitchen of one of the first floor apartments, said Trooper Skip Sydnor, Pennsylvania fire marshal.

He said a pan was found on the right rear burner of an electric stove and the burner was on.

The only person in the apartment at the time was an unidentified man who was found asleep in another room. He was not injured.

Chambersburg Fire Chief William Dubbs said the fire traveled through the walls and ceilings. He said firefighters had to knock down some walls and parts of the ceiling to extinguish the fire.

"There was no way to get to the fire without cutting through the walls and the ceiling," he said.

About a dozen of the residents stood behind yellow fire police tape across the street while firefighters put out the blaze.

Houston Owens, who lived in a second-floor apartment, said that at first he didn't think the fire was a bad one.

"I started to smell a little smoke and then my neighbors started hollering at me to get out," Owens, 82, said. "I thought there wouldn't be much to it, so I waited."

He said a firefighter helped him down the stairs and out of the building.

"I'm glad his neighbors were home to warn him," said Loretta Gordon, Owens' daughter, who lives nearby.

By 12:30 p.m., firefighters were allowing some residents back into their apartments to retrieve their belongings.

Dubbs said the four apartments bordering Liberty Street sustained the most damage from heat and smoke. Three apartments on the other side of the building had no fire damage, but a lot of smoke damage.

"No one can stay at this point," Dubbs said.

He said the Red Cross would help the residents find housing, although several people said they would stay with family members.

Units from Chambersburg; Fayetteville, Pa.; Mont Alto, Pa.; and Shippensburg, Pa., were among the fire departments that responded to the scene.

One firefighter from the Franklin Fire Co. was injured when a piece of glass cut through his glove, Dubbs said.

He was treated at Chambersburg Hospital for a cut hand, he said.

Warm temperatures Monday morning made work uncomfortable for the firefighters, but there were no heat-related injuries, Dubbs said.

He advised people to carefully monitor food when cooking on a stove and to make sure burners are turned off.

"We do get quite a few calls involving food left on a stove. My advice is not to put anything on the stove if you're not going to be there to watch it," Dubbs said.

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