Fire damages downtown Waynesboro building

September 04, 2006|by JENNIFER FITCH

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - The flow of electricity to 47-51 W. Main St. seriously complicated efforts of 65 firefighters from three counties battling a Saturday night fire, Waynesboro's fire chief said Sunday.

"There was some major voltage," Ron Flegel said. "When you're playing with 440 volts, we stand back."

Fire broke out at 9:30 p.m. at the rear of the one-story building that is owned by Michael Benedict and houses his construction company, Dollar General and Freed Spirit Christian Bookstore and Gift Shop. Flegel said the electrical fire started at the service entrance and traveled a conduit to a panel in the basement.

Whether the fire began inside or outside the brick building is "so far undetermined and may never be able to be determined," Flegel said.

Popping and sizzling sounds could be heard while the smoky sky above the building flashed as if fireworks were being set off below. Those aspects of the fire ended when Allegheny Power arrived around 10:10 p.m., and many of the onlookers then left.


Firefighters entered the building and found they were initially restricted in their ability to combat problems in the basement.

"We couldn't go into that building and start throwing water around with the electrical problem. Our hands were tied," Flegel said.

The fire spread to the first floor of Dollar General, and damaged storage and office areas, he said.

"The fire damage is confined to the basement, first floor and electrical panels," Flegel said.

Firefighters opened ventilation panels on the roof to release smoke, he said.

Dollar General employees were in the smoke-damaged store early Sunday. They inventoried and threw out the dairy products, according to Flegel.

The store manager said a number of factors will determine when the store will reopen.

Responding fire companies were Waynesboro, Mont Alto, Blue Ridge Summit, Longmeadow and Fountaindale. The Franklin, Leitersburg and Smithsburg departments provided assistance as transfer crews.

Waynesboro police and ambulance services also responded to the scene, which was cleared at 1:45 a.m. Sunday.

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