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Several displaced after fire tears through Blair Co. block

Updated: Friday, February 28 2014, 11:03 AM EST

Reported By: Jackalyn Kovac
Written By: Marc Stempka

HOLLIDAYSBURG, Pa. -- Several people were displaced after a fire tore through several buildings in Blair County, destroying apartments and businesses, and making a tough firefight for first responders.

The first reports for the fire along the 100 block of Allegheny Street in Hollidaysburg were called in at about 3:30 p.m. Thursday, officials said. Within minutes, flames were shooting through the second floor of one building, then quickly spread to others, creating a massive orange fireball.

"The fire did [start in a corner] from the second building," Phoenix Volunteer Fire Company Chief Tony DiBona said. "We're not sure of the origin at this time, but all the residents were evacuated by the Hollidaysburg Police Department before the fire department got there."

At least 10 people were displaced and four businesses were damaged in the blaze. Robert Ziegler was inside his apartment when police rushed in to get him outside.

"I was putting my shoes on and I said 'Hold on chief, I'm getting my shoes on,'" Ziegler said. "He said, 'No, you gotta go, the building next door is on fire.'"

Several people in the area reported hearing an explosion just after police were able to get outside, including deli employee Rob Lechner.

"I called my boss, we were on the phone talking, I was standing right by the window, that's when I heard the explosion," Lechner said. "We heard it the same time we were talking on the phone."

Officials have not yet determined what may have caused that explosion-like sound.

As the smoke and flames filled the street, more fire departments from throughout Blair County and neighboring Cambria County filled the streets with trucks and hoses to get the blaze under control.

The cold temperatures also hampered the efforts, as water kept freezing as it rolled down streets and was sprayed onto nearby buildings. High wind speeds were also a contributing factor while trying to put out the fire.

A state police fire marshal is investigating. The Red Cross was called in to assist seven families who were displaced by the fire.

Several displaced after fire tears through Blair Co. block

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Edgar Snyder

Washington Times