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11 displaced in Palmerton fire

Eleven people were displaced after a fire destroyed a four-unit apartment building in Palmerton on Monday morning.

Fire companies from several counties responded to the blaze at 302 Lehigh Ave.

The Red Cross was notified, and they are assisting nine adults and two children with the resources necessary to secure clothing, food and temporary lodging.

This was the second fire to hit the Palmerton area community within several days after Brian and Michelle Gordon and their children were displaced by fire on Friday night.

Borough fire Chief Jason Behler said firefighters were dispatched at 9:36 a.m. to the building at 302 Lehigh Ave.

“When we first arrived on scene, the rear of the residence, the back portion was on fire. The bulk of the fire was in that back corner,” Behler said. “It had already progressed into the first floor, kitchen area and second floor from the conditions of the snow. It was windy; it just really pushed the fire quickly right out of the gate.”

Behler said there were people in both apartments to the rear, and he believes also the first-floor apartment, but that there were no injuries.

“Most of them got out on their own,” Behler said. Firefighters helped an elderly woman who lived in the front apartment out of her house.

“I believe the majority of homeowners had gotten pets out when they were leaving; now we did find one rabbit in the one apartment, and also might have gotten two cats out as well.”

Three cats were taken by Palmerton Cat Project volunteers to be checked by a veterinarian. One cat is still missing.

Behler said one firefighter from Slatington Fire Department was injured when he was struck by a water hose line and was taken by ambulance to a local hospital.

He said Walnutport and Slatington fire personnel went in and assisted the injured firefighter from the dwelling.

Behler said firefighters had the fire under control by 1:30 p.m.

“This building (original rock building), the rear was one of the oldest first original buildings in Palmerton,” he said. “There was additions built on, conversions to apartments, that created void spaces, which made it really difficult for firefighters to get ahead of the fire; it was just difficult to extinguish.”

Behler said a state police fire marshal was called. The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

“It seems more than likely able to be undetermined just from the damage done,” he said. “I see it as a total loss.”

Known as the Straup House, the building had served as a military fort in the 1700s. It then became a farm house before it was sold to the Palmer Land Co in. July of 1898 when the town was being built.

Outpouring of support

Behler said also assisting at the scene were the Aquashicola Fire Department, Bowmanstown Fire Department, Lehighton Fire Department, Slatington Fire Department, the Cascade Unit of Woodlawn Fire Department in South Whitehall, Mahoning Valley Rehab, Nesquehoning Fire Department, Penn Forest Township, Franklin Township Fire Department, Lehigh Township Fire Department and the Walnutport Rapid Intervention Team.

“We’re thankful to everybody for their help,” he said. “We had a huge outpouring of support from the local businesses.

Behler said Papa Al’s, Joe’s (Place), and Tony’s Pizza, sent out food for the firefighters.

“We were there for several hours, (and) even though we were at the fire for four, five hours, they were leaving food,” he said. “That goes a long way to know we have the support of our local businesses, and we’re really appreciative of that.”

Firefighters from multiple fire companies battle this fire at 302 Lehigh Ave. in Palmerton on Monday morning. According to the Red Cross, 11 people were displaced from the fire. Four families were living in the apartment building. See a photo gallery at tnonline.com. COPYRIGHT LARRY NEFF/TIMES NEWS