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ATF: York firefighters were on fourth floor at time of collapse

Written by Ted Czech/The York Daily Record | Mar 27, 2018 5:17 AM
ATF_weaver-fire-investigation-York.jpg

ATF investigators watch the bucket of heavy equipment as is sifts through the rubble of the fire scene of the former Weaver Organ and Piano building Sunday morning. Paul Kuehnel, York Daily Record

Four firefighters were on the fourth floor of the old Weaver piano factory when it collapsed, killing two of them.

(York) -- The ATF's preliminary investigation still has not determined what caused last week's fire at the old Weaver piano factory in York -- in which two firefighters died -- according to an agency official.

Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms spokeswoman Charlene Hennessy said Monday no official conclusion had been reached, though the ATF has developed some leads. At the site Monday, agents used heavy equipment to sift through the debris piece-by-piece, setting some aside for further examination.

"Now they're clearing out the debris, looking for any electrical components, such as space heaters or anything that could have been potentially an accidental cause to the fire," she said.

On Thursday, two York City firefighters, Zachary Anthony, 29, of York, and Ivan Flanscha, 50, of Red Lion, died when part of the old Weaver Organ and Piano building, ravaged by a fire that started Wednesday, collapsed. The two were the first York firefighters to die in the line of duty since 1971.

Firefighters location inside building

Hennessy said Anthony and Flanscha, along with two others who were injured, Assistant Chief Greg Altland, 52, and firefighter Erik Swanson, 50, were on the fourth floor of the building extinguishing remnants of the fire when the floor collapsed.

"They were fighting the fire on the fourth floor," she said. "There were still hot-spots in the building and the firefighters were trying to mitigate them and the floor collapsed."

Which agency investigates the deaths of Flanscha and Anthony is contingent upon what the ATF officially determines caused the fire, York City Police Interim Chief Troy Bankert said Monday.

"If it's determined to be arson, the police department will investigate with the assistance of the ATF," Bankert said. "If it is not criminal, the fire department does an internal investigation into the deaths of their employees."

Hennessy said ATF investigators had an idea of the fire's origin.

"It started near the center of the debris," she said, motioning toward the rear of the building, where heavy machinery was working. "But it's not been officially determined."

As ATF agents examined evidence inside the fenced-in area Monday, they also continued to interview potential witnesses. About 1:40 p.m., a man on a bicycle, wearing a Miami Dolphins jacket, rode up the fence and called an agent over.

The man said he had been doing work inside the Weaver building prior to the fire. The agent then took the man to another area, and 20 minutes later, the man remained at the scene, talking with investigators.

Injured firefighters

York City Fire Chief David Michaels said Monday that Altland and Swanson were released from York Hospital late Friday and they both suffered cuts, bruises and soreness.

The families of Altland and Swanson are included as recipients in the GoFundMe account established after Thursday's events.

Funeral arrangements

Phillip Given, chief of staff for York Mayor Michael Helfrich, said Monday that plans for the Wednesday public memorial service for Anthony and Flanscha were still being finalized.

He added that Flanscha's funeral will be held at a private ceremony, while Anthony's would be held Thursday at Freedom Valley Church in Gettysburg and is open to the public.

This story comes to us through a partnership between WITF and The York Daily Record

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