Pa. Firefighter Killed in Reported Collapse at Fire

A Shippensburg firefighter died Monday after the roof of a Huntingdon County building collapsed as he battled a fire there.

An autopsy was scheduled for 10 a.m. today at Chambersburg Hospital. A press conference was slated to follow at 2 p.m. at the Pennsylvania State Police station in Chambersburg.

Emergency personnel released little official information in the wake of the Monday afternoon fire in Blairs Mills, a village near the border of Juniata and Huntingdon counties. The town is about 19 miles northwest of Shippensburg and 30 miles west of Carlisle.

In a Monday night statement, Franklin County Coroner Jeff Conner would say only that a Franklin County firefighter died in a fire in Huntingdon County.

Firefighter of Year

Unofficial sources identify the victim as Keith Hess, 22, a West End Fire and Rescue volunteer who also was reportedly a driver for the Fannett-Metal Fire and Ambulance Co.

Hess was named West End's Firefighter of the Year in 2000. He graduated from Shippensburg Area Senior High School in 1998.

Fannett-Metal and West End were among 11 stations responding about 4 p.m. Monday to an alarm that initially was reported as an apartment fire.

State police trooper Charles Aungst of the Huntingdon barracks reports the fire was at the intersection of Hotel Road and Tuscarora Creek Road in Tell Township.

Police say the victim briefly was trapped inside the building along with a second firefighter when a chimney and part of the second story of the building collapsed about 5 p.m. Both were freed by other firefighters.

Huntingdon County Emergency Management Coordinator Richard Moore told an Altoona television station that four firefighters were inside the building at the time of the collapse.

Moore told WTAJ television that the fire essentially was out and the two were trapped while dousing hot spots to prevent a flare-up.

One firefighter was treated and released at Chambersburg Hospital. A third refused treatment for injuries.

Police say the building was owned by Kimberly Burdge of Blairs Mills. It was unclear who lived there.

Fannett-Metal Fire Chief Sam Peterson says the building is a total loss.

No residents were injured in the fire, officials say.

Investigation into the fire's cause continues through the state police fire marshal and Huntingdon-based state police.

Backup Provided

The West End station essentially was out of service Monday night, with other fire stations serving backup duty. Many of the company's members were sequestered in their quarters while others gathered quietly near apparatus in the station.

The status of the Lurgan Avenue station is to be re-evaluated later today. Units from CV Hose Co., Vigilant Hose Co., Fayetteville Fire Co. and other stations still were standing by this morning.