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Former Elimsport general store destroyed by fire

PHILIP A. HOLMES/Sun-Gazette

ELIMSPORT – A vacant building that was a general store for decades here at Gap and Elimsport roads went up in flames early Monday morning in a blaze that burned out of control for at least two hours, according to Washington Township Fire Chief Brett Ulrich.

“The building was pushing smoke on all sides and there were flames in the back when firefighters arrived,” Ulrich said.

The fire was discovered about 6:10 a.m. by a passerby and quickly consumed the entire structure at 10 Gap Road.

“We make an interior attack,” Ulrich said, but firefighters were not inside for very long because they soon discovered that everything inside the two-story building was on fire and that there was nothing that could be done to save it.

There were no reports of injuries.

PHILIP A. HOLMES/Sun-Gazette

Ulrich suspected the fire was burning for close to an hour before it was discovered.

Within minutes after firefighters arrived, a second alarm was ordered, bringing additional firefighters and equipment from surrounding communities to the scene.

In addition to battling intense heat and smoke for more than three hours, firefighters also had to contend with very cold conditions as temperatures hovered in the low 20s. Gallons of runoff water quickly covered much of Gap Road and Elimsport roads with ice.

“This place was always a general store with one apartment overhead,” Ulrich said. His grandparents ran the store for many years when it it was known as Gridley’s. The building was last owned by Fred Hill, of Allenwood, who along with his wife, Diane, ran a store for several years, selling everything from general merchandise and guns, according to a relative at the scene.

“This used be Hill’s General Store and Hill’s Sports Center. There was an arcade in there at one time,” one firefighter said.

PHILIP A. HOLMES/Sun-Gazette

“It was always a general store, but it change hands over the years. I believe the store was closed more than 20 years ago and the apartment has been vacant for some time,” Ulrich said.

When Ulrich’s grandparents, Gerald and Amy Gridley, ran the place in the 1980s and 1990s, the store “was really the social hall for the village. It was our newspaper. It was where you went for your information,” the 35-year-old fire chief said.

“That was many, many moons ago,” he said.

Firefighters from Washington Township, Clinton Township, Nippenose Valley and Montgomery responded on the initial alarm. Firemen from Warrior Run Area and White Deer responded on the an additional alarm.

Firefighters drafted water from a creek near the Washington Township firehouse, less than 300 yards away.

PHILIP A. HOLMES/Sun-Gazette

“Just trying to get to the fire (inside the structure) safely was our biggest hazard,” Ulrich said.

A plume of heavy white smoke rose several hundred feet into the air for at hours as firefighters fought the blaze. A state police fire marshal from the Milton barracks responded to the fire, but he said the cause will likely remain undetermined due to the destruction.

A excavator from Lycoming County Resource Management Services (the landfill) was brought in to tear apart sections of the building firefighters could not reach with their hoses. “This way all the sides could be torn down and we could get everything put out safely,” Ulrich said.

PHILIP A. HOLMES/Sun-Gazette

PHILIP A. HOLMES/Sun-Gazette

PHILIP A. HOLMES/Sun-Gazette

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