Two fires at the same apartment house in Hazleton have each been ruled a case of arson.
The first fire started in some trash outside the apartment house on East Diamond Avenue in Hazleton.
The second fire was inside the building.
The smoke and flames could be seen from all over Hazleton. A fire early Tuesday morning destroyed an apartment house and damaged some homes and a second apartment building.
Fire officials said 24 people were forced out by the fire.
“The whole house is ruined. I don’t think it’s fixable. I think we’re going to have to move and it really, really upsets me,” said fire victim Rose Fedullo.
“It’s horrible. What are we going to do with everything? We have a lot of help right now. I don’t know what to think. What do you move first, what do you do?” asked Chris Lehman.
Hazleton Fire Chief Donald Leshko said there were two separate fires about six hours apart.
Officials said the first fire outside the building and the second one inside were both deliberately set. That word came as two state police fire marshals, Hazleton detectives and firefighters searched the debris.
Some fire victims are not surprised that someone set the fires.
“What they told us when we came out that that was set too, that somebody did it on purpose,” Fedullo added.
“It blows my mind that someone could have the audacity, that someone can start a fire and come from outside and with innocent children involved it really upsets me,” said Amy Drasher, relative of a fire victim.
“The people are lucky to get out alive, all 24 of them. The whole second floor is gone, including the roof,” said Paul Delorenzo of Tamaqua.
At least two fire victims had to be treated at the hospital.
Late Tuesday afternoon crews began tearing down the building. A building inspector said it was a threat to public safety and could collapse.
“It’s for the safety of the public. We don’t want anyone going into the property. It’s in imminent danger of collapse,” said building inspector Richard Wech.