Lawrence County, Pennsylvania High-Rise Evacuated After Fire Caused by Smoking

NEW CASTLE, Pa. (AP) -- Dozens of elderly and disabled people were evacuated from a county-run high-rise after an apartment fire caused by careless smoking, firefighters said.

Nobody was killed in the Tuesday night fire at Lawrence Manor, but at least 15 people were taken to hospitals complaining of smoke inhalation, authorities said.

The fire started about 10:10 p.m. in a fourth floor apartment where a female resident's couch caught on fire while she was smoking.

Many residents ignored the initial fire alarm because they said burnt food in the apartments frequently set off fire alarms in the building. Many residents realized this was the real thing when they saw smoke in the hallways, firefighters said. The evacuation was orderly, residents said.

''It was well organized, really, I thought. Everybody that couldn't stand had a seat,'' resident Mary Ellen McGinley said. ''Everybody was pretty cordial about the whole thing. Everybody was watching out for everybody else.''

Most of the residents were staying with relatives or friends Wednesday morning as crews worked to rid the building of remaining smoke.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press