Concern for Neighborhood’s Future Following Fire

WILKES-BARRE, Pa. -- Flames ripped through homes on Stanton Street in Wilkes-Barre overnight.

"The police came, and then the fire trucks came, but it was all engulfed in flames at that point," said Colleen Burke who lives nearby.

Fire crews tell Newswatch 16 it started in the vacant side of a double unit. The flames then spread to the house next door.

Florence Novitsky lived in that house now destroyed by the fire.

"I just wanted to get a look in the daytime," said Novitsky.

She says her smoke alarm saved her life.

"Absolutely saved my life because if I'd been in there five minutes more, the smoke was so bad I think I would've had a more difficult time getting out," Novitsky added.

"I feel sorry, I heard she's 80 years old, and for her to have to start over at 80 years old, it's a shame," said Shirley Kogoy who also lives nearby.

Passersby taking stock of the damage are happy no one was hurt, but they worry about the future of a neighborhood with a growing number of empty homes.

Neighbors tell Newswatch 16 they hope that these homes don't remain standing very much longer. They say burned-out homes in the neighborhood have caused problems.

"It's a shame because everybody's been begging and begging the city to do something with these properties, and nothing's getting done," said Kogoy.

Kogoy says her son left Wilkes-Barre because he didn't want to raise his family in a neighborhood that looks like this.

"It's totally a mess. Like they say, our city is the fourth-worst city in Pennsylvania. I could see why. I could see why people are walking away," added Kogoy.

Fire investigators have not determined the cause of this fire. Right now, there is no word on whether or not the homes can be repaired or if they will be condemned, but officials say the damage is extensive.

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