At around 3 a.m. on Tuesday September 7, 2004 Allentown, Pennsylvania firefighters were dispatched to a report of a house fire at 426 North Street. Dispatched on the assignment were three engine companies, a truck company and shift battalion chief. On dispatch the Allentown 9-1-1 Communications Center advised of numerous calls being received reporting a working fire.
Engine 6, the first in engine on the assignment, found heavy smoke showing from the front of three row homes. Battalion Chief Robert Fatzinger arrived on the scene and assumed command. Fatzinger did a size up of the buildings and found heavy fire showing from the rear of three houses spreading quickly in both directions and ordered a 2nd alarm to be struck.
Engine 10, the first in engine on the second alarm, was ordered to stretch lines to the rear of the row homes and take up position. Finding the fire spreading rapidly, Battalion Chief Fatzinger ordered a third alarm to be struck which would bring the entire city force to the scene. A request was also made to call out men to man reserve apparatus and respond to the scene. Chief Craig Long arrived on scene and took position in the rear of the building, as Fatzinger has placed the command post in front of the row and could see that area. Chief Long requested additional manpower to the rear and two mutual aid trucks were dispatched from Whitehall and Eastern Salisbury.
In all eight homes were destroyed and three additional homes severely damaged by the blaze. All eight homes will be torn down as only the facades still remain as most of the houses have collapsed.
Fire Marshal Scott Lindenmuth said the cause of the fire is careless cooking. Lindenmuth said resident Christopher Reed of 426 North St was cooking when oil on a gas range when it ignited. Reed then attempted to put the fire out with salt as is spread to kitchen cabinets. Reed than made a valiant effort to get his family out of the burning house and then ran a block to report the fire from a payphone. Lindenmuth said the 10 minute delay in calling put firefighters at a disadvantage as they arrived to find heavy fire in three homes already.
In all approximately 50 firefighters manning 11 engines and 3 trucks found the blaze for over 2 hours before gaining control.