February 28 at 0513 Hours, the Philipsburg Fire Department was dispatched to Old Erie Pike and Church Hill Road for a report of a dwelling fire. In route, units were advised that the structure was the old Blue Ball School, a two story brick built in 1910, that had been converted into apartments several years ago.
Department Chief Tim Townsend advised County to up grade the dispatch with an additional truck and tankers. Reliance Fire Company Chief Doug Read arrived first, reporting heavy fire on the second floor with possible entrapment. First in Engine 11 laid 500 feet of 5" from a hydrant to the A/B corner and advanced a 2 1/2" pre connect and a 1 3/4" pre connect to the second floor for a primary search.
Tower Ladder 12 arrived and set up on side D. Conditions deteriorated rapidly as the roof collapsed, sending the old bell tower crashing to the street. As command was sounding the evacuation alert, the occupants were located in a vehicle across the street. PAR confirmed all fire fighters were accounted for and operations went into a defensive mode. A tanker shuttle was established as the master streams exceeded the hydrants capability.
22 fire companies from 3 counties battled the battled the blaze, shuttled water or covered empty stations. Fortunately only one first floor unit was occupied by a family of five, who escaped safely. A Pennsylvania State Police Fire Marshal is investigating the fire which is not considered suspicious at this time.