Fire Destroys Vacant Furniture Store

Hazleton, PA, Dec. 2, 2004 – A vacant furniture store was destroyed by a two-alarm fire with multiple wall collapses. The six-floor store was built in 1890 of brick and heavy-timber construction with a flat tin roof covered with tar. A sprinkler system was installed, but was not in service because the building was vacant. Vacant multi-story structures were located on both sides of the fire building. Railroad tracks were behind the building.

The Hazleton Fire Department was dispatched to a reported structure fire at the Reinhart Furniture building, 112 East Broad St., at 11:29 P.M. Engine 2, Engine 3 and Ladder 1, a 102-foot tower ladder, responded with three career firefighters under the command of Deputy Chief Bill Getz. Upon arrival of Engine 3, a working fire “building fully involved” was reported. Heavy fire was visible on the second, third and fourth floors extending to the fifth floor. Engine 3 was positioned in front of 124 East Broad and Engine 2 was positioned with Ladder 1 in front of the former Powell Furniture building at 100 East Broad. Bystanders reported that it was possible that two people were living in the building, but police officers located them elsewhere in the city. Due to the advanced involvement of the building, all apparatus was positioned outside of the collapse zone. According to pre-plans, no interior attack was attempted by firefighters.

A second alarm was requested, bringing off-duty career firefighters and volunteers to the scene with Engine 5, Engine 4 and Ladder 2, a 100-foot aerial ladder. Engine 3 hooked on to the hydrant in front of 124 East Broad. Engine 2 laid dual 150-foot, three-inch supply lines from Ladder 1 to a hydrant at the intersection of East Broad and Pine streets. This engine hooked onto the hydrant and pumped to Ladder 1. As additional career and volunteer firefighters and apparatus arrived, additional master streams were placed into operation.

Engine 5 reported to the rear of the building and pumped two supply lines to a manned ground monitor. Ladder 2 was positioned on Mine Street at the rear of the structure. This aerial was not placed into operation and later repositioned to the staging area on Broad Street. Engine 4 was staged on Broad Street. Two unmanned ground monitors were placed into operation at the front of the building and another was deployed to the rear of the structure. Crews stretched handlines to protect exposures.

The fire was declared under control at 5 A.M. on Dec. 3. and the last Hazleton units left the scene at 9 P.M. on Dec. 5. The cause of the fire remains under investigation by the Hazleton Fire Department, Hazleton Police Department, Dauphin County Sheriff’s Department and Pennsylvania State Police Fire Marshal’s Office.

Jay K. Bradish/IFPA, Firehouse® news editor, is a former captain in the Bradford Township, PA, Fire Department. He has been a volunteer firefighter and fire photographer for more than 25 years.