Flames shot 50 feet into the air as firefighters arrived on scene of a fully-engulfed structure fire, stretching from 33 to 41 Water St. in New Philadelphia a little after 4 a.m. today. The blaze left two families homeless.
Fire companies from several surrounding areas responded quickly with aerial trucks and heavy apparatus to slow down the fast-moving fire.
The fire appeared to have a noticeable head start prior to the first firefighters on scene as it already consumed and partially collapsed three vacant row homes located at the intersection of Lombard Street.
Sarah Burke, an elderly woman who lived at 39 West Water St., which was also destroyed, was saved by a family member who was staying the night with her. Four people living at 41-43 Water St. are homeless as the fire quickly claimed their home.
Those residents included Dennis Faust, who is New Philadelphia's borough supervisor, and his family members, Mary, Dennis Jr., and Charles, as well as their two pets.
A vacant apartment building located in the rear of 33 Water St. and at the intersection of Alliance and Lombard streets was also damaged by heat and smoke.
An adjacent home at 47 Water St. sustained heavy smoke damage.
Many other properties surrounding the aggressive fire were also damaged from high heat and heavy smoke.
A white plastic fence and vinyl siding of a nearby home, located across the street from the fire, was melted.
Fire police and firefighters closed SR209 for the duration of the fire, utilizing available water pressure, hydrants, and hoses needed to fight the blaze.
One nearby resident pointed out that most of the homes were either vacant or shared by tenants, thus limiting the amount of people affected by the fire.
It was only about a year ago, on Oct. 17, that a similar fire, located only a block up from today's blaze, claimed a number of homes on Water Street, and included a popular bar, Moe's Pub. Because of the temporary closing of the road, Pottsville students were given a school delay to permit buses to arrive.
Firefighters, paramedics, and fire police from New Philadelphia, Tuscarora, Brockton, Tamaqua, Blythe Township, Hometown, and other surrounding areas responded. Volunteers from the Schuylkill and Eastern Northumberland American Red Cross were on scene helping the affected families with lodging, emergency financial assistance, and cleaning supplies.
Red Cross volunteers also provided coffee and snacks to the emergency responders.
No serious injuries were reported.
Emergency crews and the Red Cross remained on scene until 11 a.m. The fire is still under investigation.