Vindicator Logo

Mercer Co. blaze leaves 50 homeless

Thursday, April 1, 2004

SHARON, Pa. -- As many as 50 people were left homeless after a late night fire at the former Russell Street School, 300 Russell St.
Authorities said the call came in at 10:48 p.m. Sunday as a fire in a first-floor apartment. Firefighters arriving at the scene found the blaze had already spread into the second and third floors of the three-story brick building.
Everyone was evacuated safely and the only reported injury was a firefighter who suffered a shoulder sprain, authorities said.
Firefighters said the owner, Robert Duvala, had no insurance on the building, which housed a dozen apartments.
It wasn't known if any of the tenants had renter's insurance.
No damage estimate was available, and the cause was still under investigation this morning.
Fire Chief Arthur Scarmack declared the 96-year-old building a total loss, and state police fire marshals were examining the structure this morning.
Police said the blaze started in a utility room on the first-floor apartment occupied by Tiffany Hancock and her 5-month-old son.
They were home at the time and were alerted by a smoke alarm, police said.
Firefighters said flames were coming from the windows of Hancock's apartment when they arrived. They entered the building and were quickly able to knock down the flames there, but the fire had already spread.
It eventually gutted both upper floors and burned off the roof.
Brookfield Township firefighters assisted at the scene.
The blaze was just a few blocks from the scene of a Saturday morning apartment fire above the Riverfront Zoo, a bar at 361 N. Water Ave.
Owner Marty Pettitt and his family lived in the apartment but were away at the time of the 6:30 a.m. fire. They had no insurance, authorities said.
A state police fire marshal said that blaze was accidental, caused by a short-circuit in an extension cord.
Fire Friday
Hermitage firefighters are looking for the cause of a fire that damaged the home of James and Willie Cromartie at 1590 French St. Ext. around 4:30 p.m. Friday.
Firefighters found heavy fire and smoke coming from the second-floor bedroom windows when they arrived. The blaze was confined to one bedroom, but the entire house incurred heat and smoke damage.
The family had insurance, and there were no injuries. Farrell firefighters assisted at the scene.