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Fire guts Clearfield businesses
Monday, February 11, 2013
By Terry Whetstone Staff Writer
A devastating fire tore through downtown Clearfield early Sunday morning, forcing 13 people to find new homes, destroying two popular businesses, Ethan's Cafe and The Angry Bean, forcing a third business to relocate and causing serious damage to the Clearfield County Administrative Offices.
Josh Neeper of Clearfield was taking his girlfriend home, along with his grandfather, and they were on Pine Street when Neeper said he looked to the center of town and saw a slight glow along with smoke.
"I told my grandfather to head that way and we turned down East Locust Street and I was watching the smoke. My grandfather stopped at the light at North Third Street and East Locust Street and I looked at the column of smoke and saw it was coming from the apartment and cafe building," he said. "I saw heavy smoke pushing out of the windows and heavy fire coming from the rear of the structure. I got out and called the Clearfield County 911 center and advised them of a working structure fire on North Third Street at a cafe across from Karen's Men's Barber Shop and advised that people were leaving the structure."
Neeper then went to the fire station to help battle the blaze. He's a junior firefighter at both Clearfield Borough and Hyde fire companies.
The fire destroyed Ethan's Café and The Angry Bean Coffee Shop, and Evans Photography, and heavily damaged the Clearfield County offices.
Most of the damage to the county offices was contained on the second floor, which houses Children and Youth Services. That office will be available today via telephone only.
According to Joan Robinson McMillen, county commissioner, the CYS office will be relocated by tomorrow and they are seeking temporary housing for it until the offices can be renovated.
The fire also damaged the controller's office and the garage and both McMillen and Commissioner Mark McCracken said there would be a skeleton crew working in the building today. A cleaning company was scheduled to start cleaning up the damage.
McMillen said all three commissioners were on scene during the fire.
The commissioners said they can't say enough about the work the firefighters did.
"They grabbed computers and took what they could out to save our records," McMillen said. "We just can't thank them enough for all the work they did."
The CYS file room was OK as its files are locked in a separate room on the opposite side from where the fire originated.
Clearfield Borough Manager Leslie Stott said the firefighters worked throughout the night and she was appreciative of what they did. She also thanked local businesses, including the Presbyterian Church, Mr. Marino and Zalno Jewelry for opening their buildings to give firefighters a place to warm up.
Stott said the American Red Cross was on scene and supplied food and drinks for the firefighters, and were also assisting the 13 people who lost everything in the blaze.
The names of the residents were not available at press time.
Chief Todd Kling of the Clearfield Fire Department said when firefighters arrived on scene they had heavy fire from the second-floor windows and the roof.
Three aerial trucks were set up to help fight the fire, and firefighters had to contend with ice, as ladder rungs were icing over, causing very dangerous situations for the firefighters as they descended the ladders and as they tried to climb them.
"This is going to be an expensive fire," Kling said. "I'd bet it's about a million dollars or more."
He said as firefighters were responding Clearfield Borough police were on scene and advised it was a working fire. He said those police officers are also firefighters and made a sweep of the buildings.
Firefighters then conducted a more thorough sweep and made sure everyone had gotten out of the apartments safely.
Kling said the fire engine tapped into a fire hydrant and another pulled water from the river.
"We have the world's largest fire hydrant running through the center of town, we may as well use it," Kling said of the river. "That way we don't have to worry about draining the borough water supply."
Kling said the fire companies had a great response and everyone did a great job. He said unfortunately the fire had a head start.
Dustin Quigley owns the two buildings that house Ethan's and The Angry Bean and Evans Photography. His buildings were insured. It's not clear if the residents had insurance or not.
Thad and Kim Durant own Ethan's and The Angry Bean.
Kling said there was a rubber roof on the building, which created some problems, and in some areas he counted seven layers of shingles and roofing materials, again creating a problem.
Stott said the building is at least 80 years old, if not older.
Thad Durant said it was built in 1933.
North Third Street will be closed until it can be determined if the burned buildings are safe enough that they will not collapse onto the street and until the street is cleaned up. Stott was hoping it would reopen soon.
Kling said he responded from his camp on Rockton Mountain and he could see the smoke and glow from Rockton Mountain as he headed toward town.
Rick Evans, owner of Evans Photography, was on scene yesterday cleaning out his shop.
"My equipment is all OK," Evans said. As far as he could see, there was no damage to it.
"I did 95 percent of my business outside the shop," he said. "I started out working from home, I'll just do that again."
He was glad all of the residents were able to escape safely and that no one was hurt.
"It's a shame," he said of the fire. "The back of the building is gone, the front, where my stuff was, has smoke and water damage."
Kling said the two businesses destroyed were good businesses and very popular.
"We're just sick that we couldn't save them," he said. "I hope they rebuild."
Approximately 125-150 firefighters battled the blaze for about seven hours. Kling said there were no serious injuries, maybe some cuts and bruises.
The fire went two alarms and Kling said possibly into the third because of special requests.
Those that responded included Clearfield Borough, Lawrence Township Station No. 5, Hyde, Glen Richey, Rescue Hose and Ladder Co. of Curwensville, Grampian-Penn-Bloom, Bigler-Jackson-Woodland, Hope and Reliance of Philispburg and Houtzdale fire companies.
DuBois City, Fourth Ward Hose Co., was on standby, as was Oklahoma Fire Co. of Sandy Township and Sykesville Fire Co. Kling said eventually they were called to the scene to help relieve some of the firefighters. Morris Township Fire Co. and Alpha Fire Co. of State College also provided standby.
Others on scene included Clearfield Emergency Medical Services, UGI Gas, Penelec, the Borough Street Department, Fire Police, J.J. Powell, the Clearfield Borough police department, which is conducting an investigation into the fire, and Code Enforcement.
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