Apartment building burns

A fire that broke out from the attic of a four-unit apartment building at 926-928 Elizabeth St. about 4:30 p.m. Friday, displaced nine. No one was injured and all animals got out safely.

According to Eric Smith, platoon chief of the city fire department, those displaced were Christina Carpenter, who lived on her own; Rachel Hamilton and Casey Sutton and their two children; Colton Stewart and Lindsey Harvey; and Jonathan Philips and Christina Downs.

First responders faced heavy flames from the attic, as thick smoke, which could easily be seen from downtown Williamsport, billowed out of the whole of the roof. A city firefighter assessing a point of entry from the back of the building nearly was hit by a live electrical wire that had been burned loose.

Upon arriving, firefighters advanced hoses into the house and worked inside for about 30 minutes until Williamsport Fire Chief C. Dean Heinbach pulled everyone out due to safety concerns. Sometime later, firefighters re-entered the building. By 5:40 p.m., the air had cleared, but the building’s damaged exterior revealed flames still emitting near the roof.

The bulk of the fire was knocked down about 6:10 p.m and Chief Heinbach designated it under control 20 minutes later.

Scores of passersby and neighbors watched from a field across the street adjacent to the Brandon Park baseball field. Many of them held their children closely while others captured the scene on cell phones and video cameras. Young people who had taken advantage of the warm weather to ride their bikes stopped to see the blaze, which caused fire police to close Washington Boulevard for more than two and a half hours.

The owner of the property, and of McHarris Realty, LLC, asked not to be named, but said he had purchased the four-unit building only six months ago.

“We work really hard to turn OK places into nice places to live,” he said, adding that three of the four apartments just had been renovated. “This is just a kick in the pants,” he continued. “I’m in a state of shock.”

Shane Leininger, a friend of the tenants who lived on the third floor, said he was in the apartment when the fire broke out.

“I was sitting on the couch when I heard loud pops,” Leininger said. After he went downstairs to investigate, he returned and saw that the couch was on fire, he said.

The third-floor tenant, who had lived there with his girlfriend and two dogs for the better part of four months, said he was in front of the building when he saw smoke and called 911.

“That was my entire everything,” he said as part of the building’s roof collapsed onto the third floor.

Smith said the fire still is under investigation but that it does not appear to be suspicious. He could give no dollar estimate, only that the fire caused a total loss, as the lower floors suffered heavy water and smoke damage.

Only one of the tenants had renters insurance, he added.

Assisting the city fire department were firefighters from Loyalsock Township, Old Lycoming Township, Woodward Township, South Williamsport, DuBoistown, Montoursville and Montgomery.