WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — More than 20 people are displaced after fire breaks out in an apartment house in Wilkes-Barre late Saturday afternoon. But it could have been much worse if not for some very courageous neighbors.
The six-apartment house could have been an absolute death trap Saturday afternoon. But quick action by the surrounding community saved lives in a time where we need every win we can get.
An inferno caught on camera could have been far more devastating. Just before 5 p.m. Saturday, the call went out for a fire on Welles Street in Wilkes-Barre. People next door called 911, but also sprung into action.
“We ran over there. We went in through the front door, kicked the front door in and started getting people out,” Duane Craig said.
The American Red Cross says 24 people from six apartments have been displaced. They were on scene instantaneously because Tracy Persing lives next door and she was part of the group making sure everyone was out safely even before firefighters arrived.
“I know everybody. They got families, kids and pets. We just kicked the doors in and told them to get out. Then I got an extinguisher and tried to put it out but it was too much,” Persing said.
Wilkes-Barre Fire Department officials were quick to admit the quick-thinking crew from the cookout next door saved lives.
“The people nearest to where the fire had started at had no idea that there was a fire so they were knocking on the door, alerting them of the fire and got them out of their apartment safely,” Chief Alan Klapat said.
Once all residents were accounted for, firefighters made sure their four-legged friends were safe as well.
“We were alerted that there were some pets in the building. We retrieved all the pets safely and they were returned to their owners,” Kaplat said.
In this time of worry and social distancing, this apartment fire could have taken more than a building. This is one time getting close to your neighbors helped.
“Eventually, I couldn’t take much more. I had to get out. You gotta do what you gotta do,” Bill Engle said.
“I was up on the third floor and you couldn’t even see, but we got them out,” Craig said.
Fire investigators are looking for a cause. There are no injuries thanks to fast-acting first responders and a backyard barbecue next door.
All six apartments were damaged. Two from fire and the rest from smoke and water.