This morning's rain came too late as firefighters, and more than two dozen fire trucks from two counties, battled a fast-moving blaze in Mahanoy City that completely destroyed two row homes and damaged six others located on East Pine Street.

Smoke layered the Mahanoy City horizon around 3 a.m. as firefighters responded to the 900 block of East Pine Street after the fire erupted at 915 East Pine St. and quickly spread to adjacent homes.

Two homes, 915 and 917 East Pine St., were completely destroyed by the blaze. Next door, at 919 East Pine St., the home had severe smoke and water damage, while five other homes located from 919 to 927 East Pine St. all received major to minor smoke or water damage.

The home at 907 East Pine St. and a few homes located across the street from the fire also received heavy heat damage.

Three people were taken to the hospital. Their names or why they were taken was unknown as of presstime this morning.

First firefighters on scene stated that 915 East Pine St. was completely engulfed in flames when they arrived. Neighbors said that firefighters saved the block of homes as first responders were quick to get water on the fast-moving flames.

The fire was so intense at 915 East Pine St., it prevented firefighters from entering or working near the building as they anticipated it might collapse.

Other officials on scene pointed out that the smoke was so thick and heavy, they had to ask residents nearby to temporarily leave their homes.

Responding to the fire were Tamaqua Rescue Squad and firefighters and other emergency responders from McAdoo, Mahanoy City, Altamont, Frackville, Pottsville Shenandoah and others. They remained on scene until approximately 7 a.m.

A neighbor nearby stated that he saw one of the fire victims carrying birds in bird cages out of one of the homes.

The cause of the fire is still unknown and a state police fire marshal is expected to investigate the scene later today.

While still battling this fire, some firefighters had to leave the scene to go fight another fire that erupted around 5 a.m. on Diamond Avenue in Hazleton. The number of families left homeless in both fires were unknown as of presstime.

Volunteers from the Eastern Northumberland and Schuylkill County chapter of the American Red Cross were also on scene helping the displaced families of the Mahanoy City fire, as well as providing refreshments to firefighters. Hometown Fire Police and others closed parts of SR54 and roads around the fire during the response.