Fatal highrise fire investigation continues, displaced residents receive aid


Red Cross assists displaced residents as investigation continues

TAMAQUA, SCHUYLKILL COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) — The American Red Cross is working with a local church and fire departments assisting residents displaced by the early morning fire at a highrise apartment complex in Tamaqua. The roughly 50 residents from the top five floors of the highrise may not be able to return to their apartments, pending inspections by Tamaqua code inspectors.

One person was killed and three other people injured after flames erupted inside an apartment on the 16th floor. A state police fire marshal is trying to determine how the fire started.

129 residents, most of whom are elderly, live in the high rise and the Tamaqua community has responded in a big way to help them.

The fire call came in at about 6:15 Friday morning to the ABC highrise in Tamaqua. Investigators say the person inside the apartment where the fire started was killed. A tenant in an adjacent apartment suffered smoke inhalation and was airlifted to a hospital in Allentown. Another resident and a Tamaqua Police officer also suffered smoke inhalation as residents were being evacuated from the building — they will be OK.

Residents of the top five floors of the high rise were taken to the Bethany E.C. Church across the street where the American Red Cross set up a temporary shelter.

“Well, I’m a nervous wreck. I’m a nervous wreck. I’m there 14 years and I love it,” said Sarah Urbanavge, an apartment resident.

93-year-old Urbanavage fought back tears as she described what she experienced.

“Well, this morning at about a quarter after 6 the first alarm went off. I heard that. I didn’t know for sure what it was. Then it stopped and later it went again.”

She is happy to be with her friends and neighbors at the church.

“We are currently working with residents of the 15th and 16th floor trying to find them a place to stay temporarily who were displaced by the fire,” said Patricia Daley with Red Cross Disaster Response.

Members of the response team say the Tamaqua community responded big time.

“The community really came together with donations of food and drinks. Just keep pouring in from people in Tamaqua. Thank you on behalf of everyone for what you are doing,” said Daley.

The fire department also called in this food truck from Souderton, which is near the Philadelphia area, to help provide food and drink to the residents impacted by the fire.

The investigation is ongoing, no word on the cause. The name of the person who was killed has not yet been released.

Tamaqua Borough code officials are inspecting the entire building. They say it looks like tenants of floors one through ten will be allowed to return to their apartments tonight. We reached out to the owners of the highrise for comment on the fire. We have not yet had a response.

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