Tenants Escape Smoky Fire Sunday in Hawley

HAWLEY, Pa. -- Firefighters in Wayne County say it was a close call Sunday morning. A fan in the basement of a building in Hawley caught fire, filling businesses and apartments upstairs with smoke in the early morning hours.

All five tenants upstairs are staying somewhere else after the fire on Main Avenue around 7:30 a.m. Sunday.

Four businesses on the first floor are also closed because investigators say a fan in the basement caught fire, sending smoke throughout the building.

Robert Eller, a tenant on the second floor, said the situation was dangerous because he and his neighbors were sleeping when the smoke filled the building.

"When my eyes opened, my place was full of smoke," Eller recalled. "I was choking and eyes burning. You couldn't see across the room it was so thick."

Eller was thankful his neighbor woke up, smelled something burning, and started banging on doors to wake everyone and get them out.

"At one point, I said I have to get out of here because the hallway was filled with smoke, so we ran out the front door," said tenant Patricia Memet.

"We're extremely lucky. Trish really saved us all," Eller said. "If she hadn't woken up and started banging, we would have just died of smoke inhalation."

According to Hawley Fire Chief Scott Mead, the electric, sewer, and water lines are wrecked in the basement. The fire was started by a faulty fan being used to keep the floor dry.

"This could have been really bad given the time of day," the chief said.

While the chief says an automatic alarm notified fire crews and the landlord. Tenants say the smoke alarms on the second floor never went off.

"We have smoke alarms, and in the past, it did work, but nothing went off," Memet said.

"We're lucky to be alive," Eller added. "Very, very close."

That same tenant says she did hear an alarm going off Sunday morning, but it was faint, coming from one of the businesses downstairs.

Newswatch 16 could not reach borough code officials to find out if the building had the necessary working smoke alarms.

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