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Fast-moving fire displaces 22, damages 8 row homes

By Bo Koltnow, Reporter, BKoltnow@wfmz.com
Published On: Aug 27 2014 05:01:04 PM CDT
Updated On: Aug 27 2014 06:23:18 PM CDT

Nearly two dozen people are out of their homes after a fast moving fire ripped through a Schuylkill County community Tuesday night.

MAHANOY CITY, Pa. -

Nearly two dozen people are out of their homes after a fast moving fire ripped through a Schuylkill County community Tuesday night.

"It's a complete loss, that's all devastation," said John Ulrich, who lost everything he and his family owned in the fire.

"There was a lot of flames and a lot of smoke. You could hardly see across the street," Ulrich went on.

Ulrich's Centre Street, Mahanoy City home was one of six row homes that caught on fire.

"Balloon frame row home construction is just... when we have a fire in these types of buildings, it spreads rather rapidly," said Tony Blackwell of the Mahanoy City Fire Department.

"Unfortunately old coal towns like Mahanoy City with all the row homes, you worry you'll lose half a block at a time unfortunately," said Bill Engleman, who lost his rental property.

Eight homes in total were damaged.

Fire officials don't yet know the cause, but say the blaze started just after 6 p.m. in the rear of one of the west end homes.

Officials say 22 people are now homeless, but aside from one fire fighter being treated for heat and smoke related symptoms, no one was injured.

Blackwell credits the use of smoke detectors for saving lives.

"I happen to be inside those homes early in the fire and many had working smoke alarms to notify the residents they had to get out," he said.

As for Ulrich, he and his family do have a place to stay Without homeowners insurance, he doesn't know his long term plans but is grateful everyone escaped the fire.

"That's all that really matters. Everything is just stuff," Engleman said.