Fire Marshal: Apartment Too Damaged to Figure Out Cause of Deadly Fire

UPDATE: The Wilkes-Barre Fire Chief said all residents who lived in floors six and above were allowed back into their apartments Thursday night. Those who lived in floors one through four were welcomed back on Wednesday.  People who live in the fifth floor, where the fire started, will have to wait a while longer.

WILKES-BARRE--- We may never know what started the fire in Wilkes-Barre that killed two women.

A state police fire marshal said there was just too much damage in the Lincoln Plaza apartment where the fire began.

The deadly fire on the fifth floor on Tuesday forced more than 150 people out of their apartments.

Mary Kowalczyk said she was given five minutes Thursday morning to grab what she needed from her place on the tenth floor.

“It’s chaos! All I know is I needed my socks and a couple other things so I had to get them,” Kowalczyk said.

The coroner said Gloria Nieves, 55, and Luann Gilroy, 62, were killed in the fire on Tuesday.

Donna Artmont said her sister lived in an apartment close to the fire on the fifth floor. Her sister is packed up and moving in with family.

“All of my sister’s gifts are upstairs underneath the tree that she bought for people and she can't even get to it,” Artmont said.

Another reason why people on floors five and above weren’t allowed back yet is that firefighters had to kick down some apartment doors during the fire to make sure everyone was out.

Those doors need to be replaced before people can move back in.

“All I want to do is lay down and not get up. I want to back on my own bed in my own apartment,” Kowalczyk said.

Crews began the cleanup process on Wednesday so that some residents could start coming back to their homes.

People who lived on the first four floors were allowed back into their homes on Wednesday. The fire chief said apartments above the fifth floor had some of the worst damage.

Ricky Lema said he feels especially grateful to be back in his apartment.

“I say this is my best Christmas gift this year,” Lema said.

Residents who are not allowed back into their apartments in the high rise yet are welcome to come to the shelter at GAR High School.