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Fiery inferno rushes through Main Road apartment building

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    ABOVE: Flames erupt from an apartment building on Main Road in Franklin Township. ALLYSON KUSKO/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS

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    LEFT: Terry Williams and his stepdaughter, Jasmine Keller, 16, are shown this morning standing near the remnants of the apartment complex where they lived on Main Road in Franklin Township following a fierce fire Sunday evening. TERRY AHNER/TIMES NEWS

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Published January 22. 2018 02:30PM


Two people are dead following a blazing fire Sunday evening in Franklin Township.

Multiple fire companies responded to the apartment complex at 69-75 Main Road which broke out at 5:30 p.m.

There was a report of entrapment, with two people pulled from the blaze.

Township fire Chief Lynn Diehl said the two people — both males — died.

Diehl said one was dead on arrival, while the other died during the night.

One of the victims was identified Monday morning as Robert Fritzinger, 50, of Lehighton. He was pronounced dead Monday morning at Lehigh Valley Hospital-Cedar Crest.

A state fire marshal was on scene this morning to investigate.

Diehl said that firefighters encountered heavy fire when they arrived on scene.

He said one hydrant was out of water at Bank Street and Main Road, so they utilized tankers on the upper end, as well as a hydrant on the lower end at Main Road and Canal Street, and also pumped out of the canal.

“It started in the basement somewhere, just extended (upward) from there,” Diehl said. “We had trouble getting to it. It was in the attic area. It wasn’t safe to send people in, just kind of had to keep working on it until we could get at it.”

Firefighters remained on scene for about six hours, Diehl said.

“Lehighton’s aerial truck was a godsend. They were working from the roof,” he said. “Everybody worked well together.”

Also assisting Franklin Township were Bowmanstown, East Penn, Mahoning Township, and Parryville fire companies, along with Palmerton ambulance, Lehighton ALS, and Mahoning Valley ambulance and rehab.

Volunteers with the American Red Cross Pocono Mountains Chapter responded to the fire, and the Red Cross is providing emergency assistance including help with lodging, food and clothing to seven additional people displaced by the fire.

“We’re deeply saddened by this tragedy and all those who were impacted by this fire,” said Michele Baehr, executive director for the American Red Cross Pocono Mountains Chapter. “As we continue to help the survivors, we urge everyone to take steps to minimize the risk of a fire occurring in their home.”

Terry Williams, who along with his fiancee Tanya Farber and their five children, were fortunate enough to survive.

Williams, who lived at 75 Main Road, said his fiancee smelled smoke.

“I ran and got the kids,” Williams said. “It’s kind of shocking, depressing.”

Williams, who is staying with family, said they lost everything.

“I refuse to let it break me,” he said. “Just got to move on.”

His sister, Jennifer Rhyder, started a GoFundMe account for their family.

“Tonight my brother, his girlfriend and their five kids lost everything in a tragic house fire,” Rhyder said. “Thankfully they all made it safely out of the house, but with just the clothing on their backs, some of the kids didn’t even have shoes on when they got out.”

Rhyder added, “They believe the fire started in the basement with the furnace and quickly spread throughout their apartment building destroying everything.”

“The oldest son is disabled and has many medical problems,” she said. “They do have my sister to stay with for the time being but will need help with furniture, clothing and shoes, and every day items such as bedding and personal hygiene items for when they do find a new place to live.”

The children are ages 21, 20, 16, 8 and 3.

“My brother works seasonally and unfortunately has been out of work for the winter months. They do not have a running vehicle and now this has happened. Any amount at all will help and be greatly appreciated,” Rhyder said.

As of press time, $180 of the $10,000 goal had been raised.




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