Fire trucks and EMS crews filled the narrow streets in the Allison Hill neighborhood in Harrisburg on Wednesday afternoon after a 2nd alarm fire broke out in neighboring apartment buildings.
Harrisburg Deputy Chief Glenn Sattizahn described arriving to the homes in the area of 14th and Swatara streets and seeing a column of smoke coming from one of the buildings.
The initial call came in around 2:50 p.m. for a fire in a back porch, Sattizahn said, and quickly upgraded the alarm on the fire to bring in more units.
No cause was determined as of Wednesday evening, however, Sattizahn said there were a couple of possibilities being investigated by Harrisburg’s fire chief and a Harrisburg police detective.
One of the problems fire crews ran into was that the fire was near where the electric service came into one apartment, which left an overhead power line “arching and sparking” while firefighters were trying to put the fire out, Sattizahn said.
One firefighter did have to be treated after being shocked, Sattizahn said. Another firefighter was treated for heat exhaustion and a mother and infant were transported to the hospital for smoke inhalation.
The two residences most affected are 408 and 410 14th Street, both apartment buildings, and Sattizahn said they are confident it started in 408. The bulk of the damage is between four apartments on the second and third floors. The first floors of both buildings have smoke and water damage.
406 14th Street, a building that may be under renovation, had minor smoke and water damage, Sattizahn said.
Between the four apartments, 12 people were displaced, Sattizahn said. The American Red Cross will be assisting the families.
Heat was again a factor, with temperatures in the mid-90s for a majority of the firefight.
“The heat obviously today, it takes a lot out of you, when you’re just working for 20 minutes,” Sattizahn said. It’s a part of why they called for several extra units to help. In all, a fire like this takes its toll, Sattizahn said.
“Moreso than just the physical aspect, the mental aspect of – not just for the guys who were being transported to the hospital who are injured but for the guys who are still here, still having to do the work. The guys who get transported are in the back of our heads,” Sattizahn said.