Family homeless after Charles Street blaze

Thick, black smoke rose into the winter sky when a residence located on Charles Street caught fire Friday afternoon.

While no one was injured in the incident, the two apartment building was completely destroyed, according to authorities.

“This one is going to be a total loss,” said Chief Dean C. Heinbach, of the Williamsport Bureau of Fire.

In a stroke of luck, Heinbach was driving near Charles Street when the fire began.

“There’s no fire department out here, so I spend quite a bit of time driving around this area,” Heinbach said.

When Heinbach arrived on scene, he noticed flames coming out of one of the upstairs windows. After alerting the dispatchers at the Lycoming County 911 Call Center, Heinbach immediately began assisting the three residents.

“My first focus was just making sure everyone got out safely,” he said.

The building is divided into two apartments and a garage. The fire began on the second floor and quickly spread to the lower apartment, according to authorities.

City firefighters began battling the blaze, but the flames continued to spread. Heinbach called for more manpower, and city firefighters were quickly assisted by members of the Old Lycoming, Montoursville, Loyalsock, and South Williamsport fire departments.

Family and friends stood in the street to comfort one resident. Shocked, she wept quietly and watched as the fire ate through the inside of her home.

“I just thank god that everyone made it out safely,” said William Sykes, the building’s owner.

“My garage that’s on the first floor is a welding shop, and there’s all kinds of things that could cause an explosion in there,” he added.

Sykes, who was out of town when the fire began, called ahead to Heinbach, alerting him of the hidden danger.

As firefighters continued to fight the blaze, they were forced to remove large sections of the roof. Underneath the shingles, the beams had turned into glowing embers.

In all, it took about two and a half hours to quench the flames.

The fire caused an excess of $70,000 worth of damage. This cost includes both building and lost property, according to Heinbach.

All three displaced individuals were able to stay with family or friends, according to authorities.