EAST STROUDSBURG — State police fire marshals are investigating what caused a fire that displaced nearly two dozen people in East Stroudsburg.
Borough officials are waiting to determine exactly what to do with the burned stretch of row homes on Lackawanna Avenue.
Fire marshals are sifting through debris, looking for a cause.
“We’re handling it as a criminal investigation because you have to take anything of this nature and preserve all the evidence in case it is,” said Stroud Area Regional Police Department Chief William Parrish.
Initially neighbors and fire officials believed it began with a cigarette catching a mattress on fire in this first apartment on the building’s right side. Hours later it rekindled.
A fire truck remained on scene for hours after the initial blaze was doused because a fuel oil and water were found in the basement of the building and officials wanted to make sure everything was still safe.
“We’re here as a precautionary measure just to do some testing, air monitoring, make sure that the surrounding area is not affected. And we’ll have to make sure that gets cleaned up,” said Monroe County EMA Director Angel Gillette.
Borough officials are left looking for even more answers.
“The questions going to be as to whether the structure can be made safe or whether it may involve demolition,” said East Stroudsburg borough manager Jim Phillips.
East Stroudsburg officials say the building’s owner Sal Catalano is chronically delinquent on water and sewer payments for this property and they don’t believe this property was insured at all.
“As far as if he had insurance on the structure apparently he did previously but not currently so that’s going to be an issue too,” said Phillips.
In the meantime, the families who all watched their homes burn can’t return and are getting help for now from the Red Cross.