Ammunition Goes off During Early Morning Fire in Wilkes-Barre

WILKES-BARRE, Pa. -- One of Wilkes-Barre's better-known buildings was hit by fire Monday morning.

The fire at the Thomas C. Thomas building at North Pennsylvania Avenue and East Union Street broke out around 1 a.m.

Firefighters were confronted by smoke, flames, and exploding ammunition stored in the basement.

Magen Washilewski works in the office of the National Alliance for Mental Illness two floors above where the fire started. She didn't know about the ammunition danger below.

"I knew it was an old building with old things. I had no idea there was ammunition or anything like that in the building," Washilewski said.

Assistant Chief William Murtha says the exploding ammunition was really no reason for concern.

"There was ammunition going off as they were fighting the fire. It was a limited amount, not some huge stockpile. It was a reasonable amount," said Murtha.

One firefighter was hurt, not related to the exploding ammunition. Assistant Chief Murtha says he should be OK.

Fire damage to the building is confined to the basement. It is a rather large building and there is damage in the rest of it you can't see, but you sure can smell it. Smoke odor is everywhere. Open windows and fans aren't much help.

Washilewski is thankful it wasn't worse.

"I was just really scared because all our records and everything is in the building."

A produce company rents space here. Even though the smell of smoke is everywhere, one of the people in charge of the building believes two refrigerators filled with tomatoes will still be good because the cooler doors were sealed.

There is no word on the cause.

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