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Crews seeking cause of Whitehall inferno

By Catherine Hawley, Reporter, news@wfmz.com
Published On: Dec 24 2013 12:11:38 PM CST
Updated On: Oct 27 2013 10:52:16 PM CDT

Whitehall fire forces dozens from homes

WHITEHALL TWP., Pa. -

Crews are looking for answers after a fast-moving fire forced nearly 50 people out of their homes in Lehigh County this weekend. 

The fire started Friday night, but officials and residents are still trying to figure out what caused it.

The Helfrich Springs Apartments in Whitehall Township went up in flames at around 11:30 p.m. Friday. 

The blaze quickly spread to two alarms, as the inferno tore through the roof, spreading from building V to building T.  More than 50 firefighters were called in to battle the intense fire.

Crews managed to get the fire under control in about an hour. 

For resident Jeanne Lande, it will take much longer to get over the terrifying ordeal.

"When you see a fire to that extent, it's indescribable," she said.  "It's almost like you're watching a movie."

In all, 23 units were affected, forcing about 50 people out of their apartments.

"It was a devastating fire, it really was," Lande said  "Glad nobody lost their life."

The Red Cross is helping some families, and the complex is letting people stay in vacant apartments temporarily. 

Fire officials were back on scene Sunday trying to figure out what sparked the blaze.  So far we're told it started on the back of Building V.

"It went right from the upper floors to the roof," Whitehall Fire Department Chief Bob Benner said  "By the time we got set up it had gone into the roof and burst through the roof."

He said the flames may have started on the outside of one of the upper apartments.

"We're still investigating that, it looks that way, but we're not too sure," Benner said.

 Over the weekend, residents have been grabbing what belongings they can.  We're told most folks living in the affected units didn't have renters insurance.  Now nearly 50 people are trying to figure out where to go from here.

"The biggest issue is not being informed of what's going on, when we'll be able to get back into the building," Lisa Kacapyr said.

"I'm like in limbo," Lande said.  "You don't know where you're going to go or if you're going to get back in you know anytime soon."