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Senior campus recovering from fire caused by lightning strike

August 27, 2002|by STACEY DANZUSO

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Administrators at Penn Hall senior community don't know how long it will take to repair and rebuild the independent living units damaged in a fire sparked by a lightning strike Saturday morning.

"We don't know our options at this point. We want to get our residents back to their homes as quickly as possible," said Carole Fries, vice president of marketing and public relations for Menno Haven Inc., which owns and operates the Penn Hall campus on Philadelphia Avenue. "Paramount will be doing repairs correctly and the right way."

The fire started around 3:45 a.m., in the midst of a thunder storm that dumped 2 inches of rain on the region.

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Fire officials believe a lightning strike ignited the fire in the roof of 807 N. Penn Hall Drive, which includes five connected cottages, Chambersburg Fire Chief William Dubbs said.

The eight people who live in the cottages were safely evacuated, although Dubbs said there was a period after the first units arrived that they thought there were still some occupants inside.

"There was a little time before we got word from the nursing staff that everyone was accounted for, so we did searches of the cottages to make sure no one was left in them," he said.

The occupants of four of the cottages are staying in other apartments on the campus, and one couple is staying in their second home, said Ray Miller, chief executive officer of Menno Haven.

The first cottage was severely damaged by the fire, while the adjacent one had significant heat and smoke damage, Dubbs said. The third cottage had minor damage from firefighters poking at the drywall to determine if the fire had spread. The last two cottages were not damaged. However, none of them are habitable for the time being because the electricity is out for the entire row, Dubbs said.

Fire walls between each unit prevented the fire from spreading, Dubbs said.

Dubbs said it looks like the fire started in the attic space because residents did not notice fire or smoke in their homes. The fire alarm sounded and when security personnel came to check it out they could see smoke coming from the roof, he said.

Fries said it was too early Monday to estimate the damage.

This is the first fire in Menno Haven's history, she said.

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