Flames tore through a student rental house on Locust Avenue early this morning, leaving just a charred shell of a building and damaging the homes on either side.
Indiana Fire Chief Chuck Kelly said that three students lived in the home in the 500 block of Locust Street, and that while some of them were home, all were accounted for. No firefighters were injured. The fire was first reported at 4:50 a.m.
“Borough police did a tremendous job in getting everyone out” of the neighboring houses, Kelly said.
He said he was told the fire started in the back porch and kitchen area, and said he has contacted the state police fire marshal’s office to investigate the cause.
Firefighters remained on the scene this morning, using chain saws to cut into the still-smoldering house as they worked to completely extinguish the blaze. South Sixth and Locust streets were closed to traffic, and water hoses snaked across the roads. Yellow “crime scene” tape stretched across the sidewalks to keep bystanders back.
Wahi Abdulmalek, who lives across the street, said he woke up to what sounded like fireworks going off. When he looked outside, there was a fire department pickup truck in the street and the house was burning.
“Flames were coming out of all the windows,” he said.
But Abdulmalek said it was another neighbor who alerted authorities.
Mary Ludwig lives in the house next door, at 556 Locust St. She said by phone this morning that her terrier-mix puppy woke her up early this morning.
“I can only assume she smelled it,” she said.
When she went downstairs, she noticed an orange glow through the window blinds. Then she saw the back porch of the next door home on fire.
Ludwig called 911 while her son ran next door to wake up the students who lived there, she said.
Kelly said borough police were the first on the scene, and that they emptied the houses on either side of the burning building.
He said both neighboring homes sustained damage to their siding as well as broken windows.
The Indiana Fire Association was assisted by Homer City and Coral-Graceton fire departments, with the Creekside, Brush Valley, Aultman and Black Lick fire departments on standby. Citizens’ Ambulance Service and the Rapid Intervention Group Team were also dispatched.