Kayla Dwyer, Daniel Patrick Sheehan and Sarah M. Wojcik
One person is dead following a fire that ripped through the top floor of a high-rise apartment building in Tamaqua on Friday morning, according to the borough’s fire chief.
Chief Jim Connely said crews were called to the of the ABC Tamaqua Hi-Rise, the tallest building in Schuylkill County, at 6:16 a.m. when a fire alarm went off on the 16th floor. One resident of the building was flown to a hospital in Allentown, Connely said and four others were injured.
The building houses apartments for seniors.
Connely said another of the building’s tenants was treated for smoke inhalation at St. Luke’s in Coaldale and released. Also sent to the hospital for smoke inhalation treatment were a Tamaqua police officer and borough EMT, who went into the apartment to rescue survivors.
Donald Reams, 56 and a resident of the third floor, had just gotten into the elevator to go down to the community room for his morning cup of coffee when the fire alarm went off.
He made it downstairs and went outside, spotting heavy smoke and flames on the top floor.
“You could see the flames out the window,” he said.
In about 10 minutes, the windows blew out from the heat, he said.
By lunchtime, fire crews and the American Red Cross remained on scene and residents had still not been allowed back into their apartments.
Many stayed in the first floor community center and the Bethany E. C. Church across the street. Reams stayed on the patio eating McDonald’s his sister dropped off, chatting with Diane Hoffman and David Flickinger.
Hoffman now lives on the 4th floor, but 18 years ago she said she used to live in the room that is now a blackened hole.
“You could hear this popping noise,” she said.
The state police fire marshal in Frackville was investigating the cause and origin of the blaze.
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