Fire truck


NORTHERN CAMBRIA — Three buildings housing abandoned businesses and two occupied apartments were destroyed by fire overnight in the Barnesboro section of Northern Cambria.

A state police fire marshal was expected to inspect the site again after daybreak today in a search for the cause of the fire, the local fire chief said.

No volunteers among the 10 fire departments from Cambria and Indiana counties that responded to the alarm were hurt, said Chief Dave Hassen Sr. of the Hope Volunteer Fire Company.

Philadelphia Avenue, also U.S. Route 219, the main artery through the borough, was closed from the outset of firefighting operations until this morning.

A former Chinese restaurant, a long-closed tavern and a one-time shoe store occupied the ground floors of the buildings. Six tenants of the upper-level apartments were left homeless, Hassen said.

“I was the first firefighter on the scene,” Hassen said of answering the 10:40 p.m. alarm. “The fire already was going through the roof and going across into the second building. Then it spread to the third.”

A fourth building sustained smoke and water damage. A street-level restaurant there was closed for the night, the chief said.

The lone tenant at home when the fire started safely evacuated after hearing the whistle sound at the Hope fire station across the street. His wife and child were away at the time. The other tenants, a young couple, were at the hospital with their newborn child, according to Hassen.

Penelec utility workers quickly cut the electric service to the burning buildings. The chief said utility service was uninterrupted in town.

The Cherry Tree and Commodore fire departments from Indiana County were alerted to the fire at 11:02 p.m. The Clymer fire company minutes later was sent to standby in the Commodore station but eventually was sent to Northern Cambria.

Hope firefighters also were assisted by the Spangler, Hastings, Dauntless (Ebensburg), Patton, Colver and Nanty Glo fire departments.

An excavation company at sunrise began tearing down what remained of the building where the fire began.

“The other two, they’re going to have to come down eventually, but I don’t know about tonight,” Hassen said.

He spoke by telephone from his station at dawn before he returned to the scene. He had no information on the fire marshal’s findings.