News

York rowhouse fire 'potentially suspicious'

Written by Ted Czech/The York Daily Record | Sep 27, 2017 6:13 AM
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Flames are seen from the second floor of a home on East Philadelphia Street in York where a fire broke out around 4 a.m. on Tuesday. Courtesy of the York City Fire Department

York City Fire/Rescue Services officials are investigating the cause of a fire that damaged three homes in York and displaced 12 people.

(York) -- York fire and police investigators are calling an early Tuesday morning fire "potentially suspicious" after it started in a vacant rowhouse and displaced 12 residents who lived next door.

About 4 a.m., firefighters were called to the 100 block of East Philadelphia Street and found flames at 144, where no one lived, according to Deputy Fire Chief Chad Deardorff.

The fire also damaged, to a lesser degree, rowhouses on opposite sides of 144, at 142 and 148, where a total of 12 people lived. Fire Chief David Michaels said there is no 146.

Deardorff said on Tuesday afternoon investigators had traced the start of the fire to the first floor of 144 E. Philadelphia St.

"There is no power to the property, it's a vacant property, it's been vacant for about a year or longer," he said. "There's no evidence pointing to it being an accidental fire."

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Crews work to clean up at the scene of a fire in the 100 block of East Philadelphia Street in York on Tuesday. (Photo: Paul Kuehnel, York Daily Record)

Deardorff said the fire caused an estimated $250,000 in damage to all three properties -- $50,000 to both 142 and 148, and $150,000 to 144 E. Philadelphia St.

He said several firefighters suffered minor burns in the fire, but they were treated and that it's "nothing that will keep them off the job."

Michaels called the fire "very stubborn," adding that it went to four alarms, with about 75 firefighters working on it.

"It was in the void spots, it was traveling in all floors," he said. "Just a labor-intensive fire."

Crews responded around 4 a.m. to a fire at a home at the 100 block of East Philadelphia Street.Courtesy of Brett Sholtis

When the fire was extinguished, all that remained of 144 E. Philadelphia St. was a gutted, brick husk. Deardorff said in that condition, the rowhouse would be condemned.

The American Red Cross was called to the scene to help those who had been displaced, with food, shelter and clothing.

Among the victims were Wanda Bentley and daughter Cursha Bentley, 27, who live on the second floor rear of 142 E. Philadelphia St.

Cursha Bentley said her father smelled smoke, and so her mother went to check it out. When Wanda Bentley looked out a window, she could see flames from 144.

"They were shooting out, a lot," Cursha Bentley said. "They weren't little flames." 

Wanda Bentley then knocked on Ebony Garner's door. Garner, 38, lived on the second and third floors with her three children, she said.

Garner said her 14-year-old daughter was able to gather their cat and her three kittens, and carry them out in a box. Garner's daughter forgot her shoes, but a neighbor gave her some. In the middle of all that, Garner suffered an asthma attack, she said.

This story is part of a partnership between WITF and the York Daily Record.

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