MAHANOY CITY — Anytime you hear “fire” and “row home” in the same sentence, you know that usually means trouble. It was again in Mahanoy City Tuesday night.
Flames forced several families from their homes. On Wednesday, investigators were back on the scene, looking for a cause.
John Ulrich looked on at his shell of a home just one day after flames and smoke tore through his and seven other row homes in Mahanoy City.
“I knew it was just going to go up. These houses, these row homes, just go up like a box of matches,” said Ulrich.
The fire sparked just after 6 p.m. Tuesday. Investigators believe it started in the back of a home and quickly spread across this entire block on East Centre Street.
“It looked bad last night, but then in the sunlight, it looks dramatically worse.”
Debris lies across the sidewalk, windows are blown out, and water continues to drip from the cracked rooftops.
Investigators spent the morning looking for the cause of the fire that displaced five families, a total of 22 people. John Ulrich was one of them.
“I was just trying to keep it together for my family’s sake,” said Ulrich.
But he says his home is a loss.
“I didn’t have homeowner’s insurance. I didn’t get a chance to put it on, and i was fixing up the house as I was living in it,” said Ulrich.
He’s now renting a place across the street.
Also across the street is Marilyn Evans, who’s struck with flashbacks from the time her row home burned down in 1980. We found some Newswatch 16 video of that fire.
“Very mixed emotions. You could almost cry. It all comes back,” said Evans.
She returned and rebuilt after the fire destroyed her home. She feels for the people who lost their homes here this week.
“You can’t explain it. It’s just, God help them.”
Fire investigators say most of these row home had skylights that were covered. That trapped the heat and fire inside the homes, helping it to spread even quicker.
As for the families, many of them are being helped by the Red Cross.