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Fire damages apartment complex



Published: Sat, August 25, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



Firefighters said they had to run fire hoses 1,200 feet to the nearest fire hydrant.

By HAROLD GWIN

VINDICATOR SHARON BUREAU

HERMITAGE, Pa. -- Dan Busi was sitting in his apartment, contemplating his last day as a bachelor, when someone pounded on his door, telling him the building was on fire.

"I grabbed some things and got out," he said, as he stood watching building 4000 B in Hermitage Hills Apartments off North Keel Ridge Road shortly after 11 a.m. Friday.

The blaze was caused by a workman soldering water pipes in a third-floor bathroom, firefighters said.

"Luckily, I'm getting married tomorrow so most of my stuff was out. Tomorrow's my last day in there," Busi said.

Busi said he moved into the building about two years ago, just after a fire caused by an electrical short circuit extensively damaged the same building.

That October 1999 fire gutted much of the southern end of the building housing 12 units. No one was injured.

Friday's fire was in the remaining northern half, which houses 12 apartments.

Busi said some first- and second-floor residents were home but that everyone got out safely, a fact confirmed by police.

On the scene: Firefighters from Hermitage, Farrell, Sharpsville and Clark rushed to the scene but they were unable to prevent the blaze from burning the roof off the building and burning part of the third floor.

Five firefighters were treated at the scene for smoke inhalation, heat exhaustion and minor burns.

No tenants were injured, but one, Helen Lapka, was treated at the scene by an ambulance crew after feeling weak.

Pius Oleskey, her brother-in-law, used to live in the fire-damaged building but moved out so Lapka could move in. Oleskey and his wife now live in an adjoining building.

He said firefighters appeared to be hampered by a delay in running hose from the nearest hydrant to the scene.

That comment was echoed by Bill Bickerton, a first-floor resident of the fire-damaged building, who said it seemed to take firefighters a long time to run the hoses and make the proper connections before they could start pouring water on the fire.

Firefighters said the nearest hydrants were about 1,200 feet away. There was none in that portion of the apartment complex. They weren't required by local building codes when the complex was built.

The apartment complex is owned by Universal Development Enterprises Inc. of Girard, Ohio.

Displacement: Melissa Anderson, marketing director, said nine tenants were displaced by the fire and the American Red Cross is seeing that they get shelter for the weekend. Universal Development will take care of them from there, she said.

Smoke detectors and the maintenance staff alerted tenants to the blaze, she said.

Firefighters said the third floor was destroyed and the first two floors had smoke and heat damage. No damage estimate was available.




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