Investigators were on the scene Friday of a massive fire that wrecked five buildings and damaged several others in Schuylkill County.
Firefighters said the blaze that started in Schuylkill Gun Works gun shop was especially dangerous.
Fire investigators from the state police and the bureau of alcohol tobacco and firearms joined firefighters in digging through the rubble left behind by a fire that raged Thursday in Schuylkill Haven. At the end of the day officials ruled the cause as undetermined.
They also spent some time at a computer screen looking at pictures taken by Bill Quinter.
“He only lives a block away, so it gives us a time frame, also gives us a sense of intensity of the flames coming out of the building,” said Schuylkill Haven Fire Chief Glenn Sattizahn.
Pictures show flames after a gunpowder case exploded. It was used by those who run Schuylkill Gun Works, a firearms dealer. Officials believe the fire started somewhere in the business.
“We knew of three explosions before we got on the scene, we were fully aware we were dealing with a gun shop, there was thousands of rounds of ammunition and there was more gun powder, Chief Sattizahn added.
There were some injuries. Firefighter John Woleschock was briefly trapped on the second floor of one of the burning buildings.
“My boot was wedged between the rafters and my pants came up over my leg and the flames from the first floor came up and burned my leg,” Woleschok said.
Seven people who lived in the burned buildings or nearby homes were forced out. They are being helped by the Red Cross or are staying with family.
“My main wires coming in were burnt and I can’t hook it up for safety reasons,” said Greg Spliter, who thinks he will be out of his home until Sunday.
Denise Fehr was also forced out and said she is staying with family. “It’s devastating. You see this stuff on TV and all the time and you don’t think it will happen to you and here we are in the situation,” Fehr said.
Patricia Kercher was away when fire erupted but found there was no damage to her home. “Nervous, nervous because I have a cat, a hamster, and I just moved here and I don’t have renter’s insurance, so I was a little concerned that I wasn’t going to have a home to come home to,” Kercher added.
The fire chief said the damage is so bad that most of the complex will have to be torn down, but the owner of Schuylkill Gun Works said he will rebuild.