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Altoona Apartment Fire

Officials in Blair County say several families were displaced Thursday following an early morning apartment fire in Altoona.

According to 911 dispatchers, crews were called to the apartment building, located at the corner of 3rd Street and 5th Ave., around 12:30 a.m.

Authorities say no injuries were reported in the blaze but the building was destroyed.

Authorities deemed the building too dangerous to live in, and so they demolished it hours after the fire. As for the 10 apartments of people now without homes, a number of fire officials telling us the Red Cross is taking care of them in the short term.

But this destruction of a neighborhood landmark, the old Market Basket grocery store, has shown that folks in this neighborhood look out for their neighbors.

Altoona Fire Department’s acting deputy chief, Michael Hawksworth, told 6 News that crews were initially dispatched at 12:30 Thursday morning. Upon arrival, they found the apartment building spewing flames from the roof and windows.

“Initial engine arrived on scene within three minutes, with heavy smoke showing throughout the– we did an interior attack for about 45 minutes until the conditions deteriorated,” he explained. “We had to go to defensive operations, pull everyone out.”

Several area residents were tucked into bed when they heard noises around that time.

“We heard a woman screaming, ‘Get out, get out.’ At first, I thought it was a fight,” neighborhood resident Barbie Greene recalled to 6 News.

Another area resident, Pat Damiano, told us “there was a lot of smoke coming out of the top of the building. And then the next thing I know, firetrucks were everywhere.”

Barbie Greene and her husband Dale live two doors down from the building, with bricks almost falling on their home from the burning structure.

Asked if she ever felt that she was in danger, she replied, “Many hours of the night. Many hours of the night.”

“I thought, ‘at any time this house next door, it’s gonna go up in flames. Ours is gonna be next.’ we had my purse, my medicine, my dog, my, you know, my husband, his medicine. We were all ready to bolt at any time, you know, get out the house.”

However, despite the danger, Barbie told us one of Dale’s first thoughts was someone he knows who lives in the building.

“So, my husband had told them, you know, ‘There’s a gentleman up there, third floor, Ken, 306… he needs out.’ And so, he directed the firemen which floor to get, to get him out,” she said.

“It was a horrific night, that’s for sure.”

This was something the official inspecting the blaze told us helped save the man’s life.

“And if he was overcome by the smoke and we weren’t alerted to him being up there, it could have definitely had a more tragic outcome, Thankfully, we were alerted properly and we were able to get him down the ladder safely.”

There we no injuries reported.


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