On Wednesday, July 14, 2004, the Bellefonte Fire Department was dispatched for an apartment fire at the Academy Apartments in Bellefonte.
The 198-year old building was originally built as a boys school, but later converted to multi-family apartments. Due to the fire history of this building and the known hazards, the 2nd alarm was struck immediately.
Police arrived and confirmed people were trapped inside. The arriving fire units removed 3 occupants, one by ladder and two were walked out.
Due to the rapidly deteriorating interior conditions, all units were withdrawn and a defensive operation was initiated. Apparatus had to be relocated to create a collapse zone.
The 3rd alarm was called at the switch to defensive and the 4th to prepare for additional incidents. The fire created "firestorm" conditions and ignited two nearby roof fires and emitted burning debris for 10 blocks.
The building was a total loss, but the exposure building 10 feet to the South (Exposure B) was saved with no damage.
All occupants were accounted for and there were only a few minor injuries to firefighters. More than 20 volunteer companies responded, and several out-of-county companies were transferred to Centre County to provide coverage.
The building measured 210 x 70 feet, three floors with a basement and a large open cockloft. There was an operating fire alarm system but no sprinklers. Thirty-six occupants were displaced.
The fire is under investigation by the BFD and the PA State Police Fire Marshal unit.