SHAMOKIN — Fire officials determined the point of origin but continue to investigate what caused an apartment building to catch fire late Monday and displace six residents from a neighboring structure.
A K9 unit from Reading Fire Department trained in the detection of accelerants assisted on-scene at 142 E. Lincoln St. Patrolman Ray Siko, the city’s fire investigator, cited the pending investigation when asked if the dog detected anything inside the building.
Siko declined to comment when asked if he considered the cause to be suspicious.
“We’re still conducting interviews yet,” Siko said.
The fire ignited inside the second floor of 142 E. Lincoln St. and spread to the third and fourth floor, where an efficiency and rooftop deck are located. It was reported about 11 p.m. Two neighboring structures — a residence on the west side and community arts center on the east side — sustained damages and at least six people are temporarily homeless.
There were initial concerns about entrapment.
“We searched four times and were looking again today. Everybody that was in the building got out,” Shamokin Fire Bureau Chief Bruce Rogers said.
Siko inspected the scene Tuesday for several hours along with Rogers, Assistant Chief Steve Jeffery and former chief Jason Zimmerman.
All of the known residents resided in 138 E. Lincoln St. Mike Robinson, a one-time mayoral candidate, owns that building along with the structure inside which the blaze ignited. It’s unclear if he was home at the time the fire was discovered.
“We know for sure there were two adults and four children at home. Someone banged on the door and they left,” Siko said.
What Siko doesn’t know for sure if anyone was legally residing inside 142 E. Lincoln St. There were reports of people being inside the structure immediately before the fire but that information hasn’t been confirmed, Siko said.
Code Officer Rick Bozza said though there are pending code violations against Robinson concerning his properties, 142 E. Lincoln St. was not condemned at the time of the fire.
Bozza believed there were tenants living in the building. He said Robinson hasn’t abided by a provision of the landlord-tenant ordinance requiring landlords to register their tenants’ names.
Bozza added that there was water service to the building but that it was being piped over from 138 E. Lincoln St. It wasn’t considered a theft of service, Bozza said, since Robinson owns both structures and permitted the shared service.
Councilman Scott Roughton, public safety director and firefighter with Rescue Fire Company, said the attack by volunteer firefighters was offensive and defensive simultaneously — working to extinguish flames in 142 E. Lincoln St. that spread to 138 E. Lincoln St., sweep the buildings for people and attempt to prevent flames from spreading to 144 E. Lincoln St.
“Once the searches were completed, the department got a pretty good attack on the fire. They got it under control pretty quick from how far the fire progressed by the time we got started,” Roughton said.
Roughton said 142 E. Lincoln St. is likely a total loss. He wasn’t sure if the same could be said for 138 E. Lincoln St., which he said took on smoke, fire and water damage to the third floor.
The property at 144 E. Lincoln St. is the Kallaway Center for the Arts and belongs to the Northumberland County Council for the Arts and Humanities. The building took on some smoke and water damage.
A post on the Arts Council’s Facebook page credited firefighters with saving the building. A professional cleaner is sought along with $1,000 for the insurance deductible. The carpeting may need to be replaced throughout because of soot and smoke while a skylight was damaged.
“With declining manpower, the fire department has nowadays, I think they did a great job,” Roughton said.
He thanked neighboring communities for assisting on the scene including Coal Township, Kulpmont, Mount Carmel and Mount Carmel Township.