MERCER CO. FIRE Families who lost home get help

The assistance agency will spend at least $8,000 aiding the fire victims.
SHARON, Pa. -- The Mercer County Chapter of the American Red Cross is coordinating a long-term contingency plan with other local service agencies to help the 12 families displaced by a fire at the former Russell Street School.
The blaze, which broke out around 10:45 p.m. Sunday, did an estimated $400,000 damage, said fire Chief Arthur Scarmack. The building is a total loss, he said.
State police fire marshals combed through the debris Monday to determine the cause, which was still undetermined as of this morning.
More expected
Rebecca Payne, Red Cross executive director, said her agency spent $4,000 on temporary housing, food and clothing for those who lost their homes in the fire and that number was expected to double over the next few days.
She said the Red Cross is working with other agencies to provide some long-term assistance.
The three-story brick building, built in 1908, was converted to apartments years ago. It is owned by Robert Gavala, who told firefighters that he had no insurance on the structure.
Authorities didn't know how many of the tenants had renter's insurance on their possessions. About 50 people lived in the building.
There was a problem with some tenants trying to get into the burned-out building Monday to recover some of their possessions.
Scarmack said authorities had to prevent them from entering as the structure isn't safe.
Warned her neighbors
The fire started in the first-floor apartment of Tiffany Hancock, who was home with her 5-month-old son at the time.
It appeared to start in a utility room in her apartment, and she was alerted by a smoke detector, police said.
She then warned other tenants and everyone evacuated safely, police said.
One firefighter suffered a shoulder sprain but there were no other injuries.
Firefighters from Brookfield Township assisted Sharon at the scene.
Payne said all Red Cross assistance is free to families in need.
Anyone wishing to help by providing a financial gift to the Red Cross can send contributions to the local chapter at 247 S. Oakland Ave., Sharon, Pa. 16146.
Internet users can make a secure online contribution by visiting

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