Fire that killed one, displaced 100 ruled accidental

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SCRANTON, LACKAWANNA COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU)More than 100 people remained displaced after an apartment building fire in Scranton. A 63-year-old man died as a result of the fire.

“It’s been determined as accidental by our fire investigators,” John Judge, acting Superintendent of Fire with the Scranton Fire Department said.

It happened on the 500 block of Pine Street at the United House Apartments building.

“Shortly after dispatch some of the additional information from 911 was conveyed to the units responding that there were potentially people trapped,” Judge said.

Joseph Thomas, 63, of Scranton, was pulled from the fire and taken to Regional Hospital of Scranton where he was pronounced dead. According to Lackawanna County Coroner Timothy Rowland, Thomas died “as a result of a cardiovascular event occurring during the fire at the United House. Mr. Thomas suffered a cardiac arrest during the fire. His past medical history left him at the highest risk for sudden cardiac death which was certainly further induced by the fire activity. He resided in the apartment where the fire started.”

The fire was contained to the sixth floor, but damage spread.

“The fire floor and above smoke damage and then the apartment units directly below the apartment that was involved with some water damage,” said Judge.

All 90 apartments were evacuated Sunday night. 104 people are now displaced. Dozens are staying at an emergency shelter set up inside Scranton High School.

“In this case, because of the number of people that was expected, we couldn’t get places to put them into hotels, so we had to go into our standard operation we call concretive shelter,” said Paul Levan, Shelter Manager with American Red Cross.

The American Red Cross is prepared to provide shelter for the long haul.

“As soon as we can and our clients are able to go back to some kind of normalcy, it could be a couple days, it could be a couple weeks,” said Levan.

Back at the scene, crews were on site working to clean up the damage left behind by the blaze. There has been no word on when residents can return to their homes.

Firefighters rescued a second person from the building. Their condition is unknown.

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