Despite a quick response by firefighters, the West Penn Archery Club in New Ringgold was completely destroyed by a fast-moving blaze last night.
The club, a landmark in the community since around 1960, is used regularly for club events and community organizations, including church groups, 4H groups, the Schuylkill County Turkey Federation and others.
Emergency personnel were dispatched to the fully-engulfed structure fire on Archery Club Road at 7:43 p.m.
"There wasn't much we could do to save it. The structure was fully ablaze when we arrived," one firefighter remarked after enduring the cold temperatures and freezing rain. Firefighters utilized chain saws and multiple tanker trucks to battle the stubborn blaze. Due to the remote location, water had to be tanked into the site.
Dennis Fritzinger, West Penn Fire Company chief, and incident commander, said it took about an hour before firemen got the blaze under control. Some items, such as stacked cardboard used in making targets for the indoor range, fueled the flames.
Electric arcing could be heard as firefighters spraying hundreds of gallons of water on the fire. Initial responders said the fire was larger in the center of the club when they first arrived as "flames were shooting over 10 feet through the roof."
Township police Officer Melissa Boyer, who was one of the first on scene, said a state police fire marshal was expected to arrive today to investigate the cause of the blaze.
Responding with West Penn fire were volunteers from New Ringgold Fire Company, Walker Township/New England Valley Fire Company, Mahoning Valley Fire Company, Tamaqua Rescue Squad and Tamaqua's East End and South Ward fire companies. PPL and Penn Mahoning ambulance also responded.
Volunteers from the Tamaqua Salvation Army provided iced tea and hot coffee, donated by the Fegley's Gas Station in South Tamaqua, to the emergency responders that remained during freezing rain. Employees from Carnes's Clamtown Tavern also provided refreshments to volunteer firefighters manning a water refill station located at the intersection of Clamtown and Atlas roads.
Township fire police detoured traffic around the area until about 10:30 p.m., when everyone was released. No injuries were reported.