Neighbors On Edge After Fire In Atlas

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MOUNT CARMEL TOWNSHIP -- Flames ripped through a neighborhood near Mount Carmel Tuesday morning, causing damage to four buildings, and forcing one man out of his home.

Investigators originally called the fire suspicious but now say they are not sure what caused the buildings to go up in flames.

Investigators do not know what started the fire in Atlas, just outside Mount Carmel around 3 a.m. Tuesday. 

The fire chief believes the fire started in a vacant building, which originally led him to believe it was suspicious.  But the chief says there was electricity in the building so it's possible that is what started the fire.  Even so, people who live in Atlas are concerned.

Firefighters from the Mount Carmel area spent several hours putting out flames at four buildings on West Girard Street in Atlas.  Since the buildings are so close together, Fire Chief Chaz Gasperetti says the flames spread quickly.

"There were flames completely going out the back of this structure, basically like a chimney.  Embers were going everywhere. There were embers across the roofs of all these houses."

Firefighters say all but one of the buildings was vacant.

Seth Thompson lived in a double-block home. He was able to save only a few of his possessions.

"One of the police officers came in and said, 'Get up, your house is on fire.'"

Investigators originally believed this fire was suspicious, but since there was power in all but one of these buildings, they changed the cause to undetermined.  Either way, it still has people who live in Atlas on edge.  There were five suspicious fires earlier this year in this neighborhood.

"It concerned me a little bit, and it's a little bit more concerning now that my house burned down," Thompson said.

"Sometimes you can't sleep at night, you don't know what's going on out here anymore.  You see more of a police presence on the street since the last suspicious fire incidents, that's one good thing about the township," said Matthew Susnoskoe.

"It's crazy.  People can't sleep at nighttime.  It's crazy.  Something has to be done," William Aldrich said.

Just hours after flames raced through the buildings, crews started to tear them down.

"They were always a danger to the residents being abandoned, but they were a sound structure.  Now with them being on fire they aren't a sound structure and they have to come down," said Chief Gasperetti.

Investigators say there was too much damage to figure out what caused the fire, so they ruled it undetermined.