UPDATE: Most of the building’s 129 residents were allowed back into their apartments just before 6 p.m. Friday. About a dozen residents who live in the upper floors are staying with family or being helped by the Red Cross.
TAMAQUA, SCHUYLKILL COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) – One person is dead and three others are being treated for injuries after a fire that broke out in a Tamaqua high rise Friday morning.
Investigators say that firefighters tried to rescue the person who was killed in the fire but the flames and smoke were simply too intense. Many residents of the high-rise say it’s a day they will never forget.
“I went to my bedroom-kitchen window and looked out, and I could see fireballs falling down my window. so I knew there was a fire above us,” said Donald Miller, Resident, 10th floor.
“The smoke was getting heavier in my apartment. And then I went down the stairs. I got permission to come down the stairs and go to the community room,” said Fred Filion, Resident, 10th floor.
Residents of the ABC High Rise in Tamaqua said they did not know what was going on, but they knew it wasn’t good.
“It came in as automatic fire alarm fire alarm the maintenance manager responded from his home. He got an update it was an actual fire in an apartment,” Chief James Connely, Tamaqua Fire Dept.
The fire was in an apartment on floor 16. The fire chief says firefighters tried to rescue the person inside the apartment.
“The first four person crew went to two went to the room to try and gain access we had a report from communication center that a person was trapped in the apartment,” said Chief Connely.
“Yes they made it to the apartment door but because of the flames and the heat they could not gain access,” said Chief Connely.
Investigators say the person who was killed had an oxygen tank in the apartment.
“There was oxygen in the room. The oxygen basically exploded whatever it rehearsed its content and caused the side widows to blow out,” said Chief Connely.
A resident of an adjacent apartment suffered smoke inhalation and was airlifted to a trauma center in Allentown. Also, another resident and a Tamaqua Police Officer were taken to the hospital for treatment of smoke inhalation.
Residents of the top five floors were evacuated. A total of about 50 people. The other 80 or so residents of the building are being kept in a community room awaiting the okay to return to their rooms.
Tamaqua Code and EMA inspectors are checking out the apartments in the top five floors to determine when residents can return to their apartments.
The fire chief says people living in the bottom 10 floors should be able to return tonight.
The name of the person who was killed has not yet been released.
A state police fire marshal is investigating the cause.
Coming up on Eyewitness News at 6 p.m. we will show you how the Tamaqua community has responded to help the residents impacted by the fire.