46° F

Investigators still seeking cause of fire that displaced 17 in Allentown

Published On: Feb 18 2013 04:14:03 PM EST   Updated On: Feb 18 2013 05:32:29 PM EST

It's not the way some people who live in Allentown expected to start the week.


It's not the way some people who live in Allentown expected to start the week.

Seventeen people were chased out of their homes and into bitterly cold conditions by a fire that broke out on 7th Street just after noon Sunday.

Firefighters had their hands full with the 3-alarm fire in what felt like below-freezing temperatures. A cell phone captured dramatic video of the billowing fire.


Residents on the second floor noticed smoke coming through the floorboards and then a massive fireball.

"When our guys got on scene it was already, the fire was already blowing out the windows and already going in the second floor," said Capt. John Christopher, Allentown Fire Dept.

The broken window fed the flames plenty of oxygen, and whipping winds fanned the fire into a frenzy.

"Immediately, crews were put on the roof to open the roof for ventilation to prevent the fire from spreading," said Christopher.

Firefighters evacuated the nearby businesses and row homes.

The temperatures were in the low 30s, and when you factor in wind chill, the temperature felt like it was well below freezing.

Many people took refuge inside a convenience store across the street and watched firefighters battle the blaze.

In such conditions, firefighters said equipment can freeze, and crews covered in water can get hypothermia quickly.

"Any weather extreme, be it hot or cold, you kind of go through guys, you kind of go through personnel quickly.  It's difficult and it's something you try to put out of your mind. It gets real bad once you get wet and you have to come out in the cold," said Christopher.

No one was injured. The Red Cross is providing shelter for the 17 people displaced by the fire. 

An official cause has not been determined.