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Tenants: Landlord knew building didn't have smoke detectors

By Will Lewis, Reporter, WLewis@wfmz.com
Published On: Sep 17 2013 04:00:11 PM CDT
Updated On: Sep 18 2013 04:51:57 AM CDT

A fire ripped through an apartment building in Allentown late Monday night, trapping several people inside.

ALLENTOWN, Pa. -

A fire ripped through an apartment building in Allentown late Monday night, trapping several people inside.

The fire started around 11:40 p.m. Monday in the second floor laundry room of the building in the 200 block of East Union Street, and crews contained it fairly quickly, investigators said.

Tenants said the building didn't have any smoke detectors and that the landlord knew it.

Some tenants said they thought the bright lights belonged to an ambulance.

"I see the light, but I don't see the ambulance," said Francis Lugo, a tenant who lives on the first floor. "So when I come out that window and look from this window to that window, I see the big fire coming out from the window."

When the first firefighters arrived on the scene, they said five people were trapped inside the building, so they started rescue efforts right away.

"Three from the second floor via a ground ladder and two from the first floor, which was completely charged with smoke when they left their apartment," said Capt. John Christopher, Allentown Fire Dept.

The first question that needs to be answered is why there were no smoke detectors in the building, Christopher said.

"That's your early warning device," said Christopher. "That's what's going to get you out of the structure before anything gets out of hand like this did."

Tenants said they told the landlord about the smoke detectors. They said he didn't fix the problem.

Everyone got out of the building alive. All 14 residents are being helped by the Red Cross.

"This came in at 11:40," added Christopher. "This comes in two hours later when everyone is asleep and it gets another 10, 15 minutes to grow, it could have been much worse."

The building is the old Moser Elementary School. Fire crews said the 12-foot high ceilings also helped the fire stay contained to the laundry room.