Friendship Community home ‘uninhabitable’ after blaze

By on October 31, 2018
The fire swept through the complex on Oct. 25. Photo by Les Martzall

The fire swept through the complex on Oct. 25. Photo by Les Martzall

The Friendship Community group home in Ephrata is uninhabitable after a fire swept through the complex on Oct. 25.

Firefighters were evacuated from the building on at least two occasions during the second-alarm fire. According to broadcasts from the scene on Lancaster County-Wide Communications, the roof was in danger of collapsing.

No one was injured, according to Jim Kiefer of the Ephrata Pioneer Fire Company.

Kiefer said 14 residents of the home were displaced by the fire.

About 14 more people were evacuated from a neighboring apartment complex because of the chance the fire could spread, he said. It’s likely they’ll be able to return to their homes soon, he said.

Those who lost their homes Thursday were being taken by bus to Ephrata Area High School, where Kiefer said the Red Cross was ready to provide aid.

The fire was reported at 3:13 p.m. at 177 Old Mill Road, near Opal Street.

Firefighters from nearly a dozen volunteer companies responded to the scene.

At 3:27 p.m., according to radio calls on Lancaster County-Wide Communications, firefighters were pulled out of the building because the burning roof looked like it might collapse. At 3:33 p.m., firefighters were again ordered to evacuate a portion of the building.

A county radio supervisor said no one was injured at the scene. Firefighters were told to withdraw as a precaution, she said.

A firefighter called for Red Cross assistance from the scene at about 3:45 p.m. He said accommodations were needed for “about 30 residents, mostly elderly.”

Minutes later, another firefighter said a resident was unaccounted for, and crews were searching the complex for the person.

Kiefer said later Thursday evening that all residents were found and are safe.

The fast-moving fire engulfed eight residential units, Kiefer said. It spread quickly, he said, in part because of a brisk afternoon wind.

The fire was listed as under control sometime around 5:30 p.m.

The structure is uninhabitable, he said. A cause of the fire has not yet been determined.

The state fire marshal arrived at the scene shortly before 6 p.m., he said.

Besides Pioneer, crews responded from Akron, Denver, Lincoln, Reamstown, Reinholds, Schoeneck, Rothsville, Lititz, West Earl and Farmersville, according to the county’s live incident list.

Editor’s note: According to police, the preliminary cause of the fire is listed as: Accidental ­ Carelessly Discarded Cigarettes. The origin was the second floor balcony.

Tom Knapp is a general assignment reporter for Lancaster Online. He can be reached at tknapp@lnpnews.com or 717-481-6107. You can also follow @TKnapplnp on Twitter.

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