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Fire drives nine from PA. shelter

April 20, 2008|By DON AINES

WAYNESBORO, Pa. -- Nine people were evacuated safely from the New Hope Shelter at 25 S. Potomac St. following a Saturday morning fire that left it uninhabitable.

The cause of the fire at the homeless shelter, which was called in at 6:03 a.m., was being investigated by Waynesboro Fire Department Fire Marshal Jerry Hartman, Lt. John Beck said. By Hartman's order, the building cannot be reoccupied until the damage is repaired.

"Looks like it's going to be a minimum of 30 days," Beck said.

"That's my understanding," said Allen White, emergency services director for the Franklin County Chapter of the American Red Cross. "It may be a month or more before the building is operational."

The fire originally was called in as a Dumpster fire, but apparently started between the trash container and the rear wall, one firefighter said. The fire spread up the outer wall of the building, which is next door to the fire department.

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The residents were evacuated without injury, and the fire was brought under control within 15 minutes, according to a fire department press release.

No damage estimate was available, but the kitchen area sustained smoke damage and there was water damage to the thrift store in the basement, according to the release. The rear wall was charred by the flames.

"We opened up a temporary shelter for them," White said of the nine people displaced by the fire. "With that many people, we'd have to open a shelter" rather than put them up in hotel rooms, he said.

The Red Cross was prepared to set up a shelter in the social hall of the firehouse, but shelter administrators were able to find places for the victims to stay, either with family or friends, White said.

At least four men and two women were among those living at the shelter, White said. He did not know if any children were living there at the time.

Firefighters from the Mont Alto, Blue Ridge Summit and New Franklin fire companies in Franklin County assisted at the scene, along with firefighters from the Long Meadow and Leitersburg fire companies in Washington County.

The last units cleared the scene at 9:17 a.m., according to a Franklin County 911 dispatcher.

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