By Kaylee Lindenmuth | firstname.lastname@example.org
SHENANDOAH - Flames engulfed and destroyed a former garment manufacturing plant-turned-apartment on Shenandoah's east end early Friday morning.
Shenandoah firefighters were called to the former United Wiping Cloth plant at 125 East Lloyd Street just before 4:00am, beginning an 8+ hour firefight.
Firefighters from Shenandoah's Rescue Hook and Ladder and Phoenix fire companies were among the first to the scene, reporting smoke showing from the two story plant originally built as a meat packing plant.
The fire quickly grew out of control as flames engulfed the brick building, bringing a second and third alarm assignment to the scene. Firefighters from Columbia, Northumberland, and Luzerne Counties assisted local Schuylkill County fire companies at the scene.
As the fire grew and the structure became compromised, air horns and sirens sounded to evacuate the building. Shortly after, a mayday, or distress, call was transmitted, though fire officials at the scene said no injuries were reported.
"Everybody is accounted for at this point. There's no injuries reported at this time, and as far as we know, everyone is out of the building," Shenandoah Fire Marshal Rick Examitas said around 6:30am.
Temperatures hovering in the high teens to low 20s and 20mph winds made conditions hazardous, as water froze upon contact with colder surfaces, the ground, and even firefighter's turnout gear.
The NNW winds created a constant, almost smothering smoke condition on the fireground, raising concerns that the fire might spread to homes on adjoining North Bower Street. Around 6:30am, the firefight's focus was on preventing such an occurrence
"We're trying to keep the fire contained from running up Bower," said Examitas around 6:30am. "We're concerned about it going up on Bower Street to the homes that are lived in there."
"Everyone is evacuated from the Bower Street side, but right now, that's our concern because of the wind and the water supply," Examitas added.
The firefight strained the Municipal Authority - Borough of Shenandoah water supply in the neighborhood, leading to the request for a tanker task force. Tankers from as far as Harwood, Hazle Township, and Cass Township were brought to the scene. Fill sites were established at Schuylkill Energy Resources in Yatesville and at the Shenandoah Valley High School, prompting a two hour delay for the district.
At one point, the majority of the east end -- 665 PP&L Electric Utilities customers -- were without power. By noon, only 16, in the area of Bower and Lloyd Streets, were without.
The former industrial facility was converted to apartments a few years ago, and one person reportedly lived there. He evacuated the structure safely. According to the Schuylkill Parcel Locator, the property has been owned by Semyon Klimov, of Brooklyn, NY, since 2011.
The facility closed as a manufacturing facility in the mid 2000s. The facility was originally built as a meat packing facility for Armour & Co. in the early 1900s, and was later acquired by Milton Sorin and his United Wiping Cloth company. That company closed in 2001 and the facility reopened for a short time in 2004 as Auro Applicators and Assemblies, Inc, which was a short-lived business.
Firefighters from Mount Carmel, Ashland, Girardville, Mahanoy City, Ringtown, Nuremberg-Weston, Frackville, Pottsville, Schuylkill Haven, Aristes, Harwood, Hazle Township, Gordon, and others responded to the scene along with Shenandoah, Frackville, Ashland, and Schuylkill EMS.
Fire units began to clear around 11:00am, though, as of 12:14pm, firefighters remain on the scene.
A state police fire marshal is being brought in to investigate.
Full Photo Gallery: https://shensentinel.smugmug.com/2020/Structure-Fire-Shenandoah-1172020
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