Day-long fire fight still under watch through Friday night in Shenandoah

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SHENANDOAH, SCHUYLKILL COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU)– A roaming fire department presence remains in Shenandoah through Friday night.

Hourly watches to ensure that a community can rest easy after the devastating fire. It didn’t take long for flames to erupt at the scene of what locals called “the old rag factory”. The call came in just before 4 a.m. Friday morning. First responders in and around the borough of Shenandoah raced to the scene while people who lived near there were told to leave.

“There’s nothing you can do except get out and hope for the best,” said Bill Korenda, who woke up to the blaze, nearby, Friday morning.

The building was once home to United Wiping Cloth Company on East Lloyd Street. It was converted to house apartments. The lone tenant managed to get out safely. The fire raged most of the morning before firefighters brought it under control. But that was just the start of the day for many.

“We’ve been here since about ten-to-four this morning,” said one of Shenandoah’s fire marshals, Robert Sebli. “As you can see, we’re still here putting out some hot spots out. We had a lot of mutual aid companies come in because we needed a lot of towers and ladders because the roof collapsed.”

As firefighters doused hot spots, they feared the heavily damaged building could collapse and threaten surrounding properties. The harsh conditions were no favor to those battling those hot spots throughout the day.

“Something this large with the construction of the building and the temperatures we faced, hose lines freezing, icy conditions, it’s very much a risk for all of our firemen,” said fellow Shenandoah fire marshal, Rick Exatimas.

Relief arrived throughout the morning, afternoon, and even the evening. Fresh crews showed up nearly 14 hours after the flames started. Those crews near and far were welcomed with support from the community.

“Our local businesses helped us out so well with feeding us and giving us different things,” said Exatimas. “It was a great team effort even though it was a big fire in our borough.”

With the condition of the building and lingering hot spots, there may be a need for excavation in order to finish the job, but fire marshals say that’s not on the radar yet.

“That’s up to the borough officials,” Exatimus added. “At this time we’re still working on hot spots. We have not requested any type of demolition.”

Around 6:30 p.m., Friday, the call was made to cut off the hoses and let some of the hot spots burn themselves through some second-floor areas. Local fire companies are monitoring the situation through the night and will be ready to act should there be any threat to the community.

State police fire marshals will be able to complete their investigation into the cause once the building is deemed safe to enter.

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