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House 'unlivable' after morning fire

April 19, 2002|BY STACEY DANZUSO

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

While firefighters tossed charred mattresses, desks and clothes from the second floor of 21 Cleveland Ave. to the street below Thursday morning, Brad and Loretta Brown searched for pieces of their life in the wreckage.

Fire broke out at around 9:30 a.m. Thursday in the second floor of the downtown house, Franklin County Emergency Services Director Jerry Flasher said.

"You never expect anything like this," Brad Brown said. "It's sentimental, it's all of our stuff."

No one was home at the time of the fire, which destroyed two downstairs apartments, the Brown's upstairs home and spread to two adjacent houses at 17 Cleveland Ave. and 19 Cleveland Ave.

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Brandon Chandler was asleep in 17 Cleveland Ave. when the fire broke out.

"I woke up and my room was full of smoke," Chandler, 23, said.

The fire started in the second floor attic area, firefighters said. The cause of the blaze was under investigation.

Waynesboro's Deputy Fire Chief Jody Sanders said the house was "unlivable" and would have to come down.

"There is a lot of water and smoke damage to the first floor, and the second floor is totally destroyed," he said.

Dozens of neighbors watched the action from the street.

"Whenever the fire jumped onto our roof, the firefighters got it out," Chandler said.

He said live ammunition in 21 Cleveland Ave. starting going off as the fire burned hotter.

Neighbor Angela Locke said she poked her head out and saw the flames and fire trucks arrive. She said she returned to her house when she heard the ammunition going off.

Sanders confirmed there was live ammunition in the apartment, and said firefighters were told to stay away from it.

"They did not enter the room until we had (the fire) knocked down," he said.

After dousing the blaze, firefighters spent hours at the white brick house, using chain saws and axes to tear off the roof and removing the residents' burned possessions.

Brad Brown pulled at least two guns in cases from the wreckage that firefighters cleared out.

His sister, who did not want to be named, said the Browns had lived in the apartment for three years and were at work when the fire broke out.

At least two birds and a cat died in the fire, she said.

James Van Winkle, a friend of Brad Brown's, tried to help them sort out what was left.

"He is a mentor and father figure. They are wonderful people," he said.

Van Winkle, an employee at the Waynesboro Elks, said the club is taking a collection for the Browns.

Leroy Lynch Jr., manager of the Waynesboro Elks club, said he had received more than $200 in donations by Thursday afternoon and used some of the money to buy essentials like toothbrushes for the Browns.

"They will need an apartment and new furniture. They lost everything," he said.

Lynch said he would try and line up an apartment for the Browns, and donations will go toward rent.

Donations can be sent to: Waynesboro Elks, 66 W. Main St., Waynesboro, Pa., 17268, Attn: Fire Fund.

The fire affected a total of five apartments in three structures, and an undetermined number of residents, Flasher said.

Emergency workers initially were concerned because of the fire's proximity to the Waynesboro Rose Manor health care facility across the street.

Flasher said smoke entered Rose Manor through its fresh air filter.

"Employees collected residents to a central location at the end of the building," he said.

Once the fire was put out, it no longer was a concern.

Twelve fire companies from Franklin and Washington counties responded to the fire, Sanders said.

Numerous firefighters were treated for heat-related illnesses. One was treated at Waynesboro Hospital, he said.

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