Thursday, May 15, 2003

Two apartment buildings damaged in Elmwood fire

By David Eck
Enquirer contributor

[IMAGE] Flames light up the sky Wednesday as firefighters from St. Bernard, Elmwood Place and Springfield Township battle adjoining fires on Vine Street.
(Craig Ruttle photo)
| ZOOM |
ELMWOOD PLACE - A three-alarm fire heavily damaged two adjoining buildings on Vine Street Wednesday evening and left residents in more than a dozen apartment units homeless.

There were no injuries. Seven fire departments and 120 firefighters responded. By 10 p.m., one of the buildings had partially collapsed and the other was in danger of collapse. Residents said the buildings were thought to be about 100 years old.

"It was a youth home. These are all wood construction," said Matt Morgan, Elmwood Place fire chief. "Everyone was out when we got there."

He said 16 people were displaced from the youth home, which houses troubled girls, and estimated total damage at $160,000.

The fire broke out about 8 p.m. in the three-story buildings located five feet apart at 5818 Vine St., near Locust Street. The buildings were vacant on the first floor but had apartments on the upper floors.

The Salvation Army was called to assist those displaced. Power was out for three blocks around the fire site.

"We saw the people outside and the building was in flames," said Judy Dedmon, who manages Della's Stein Cafe, a block from the buildings. "I went outside and from a window at the side of the building you could see flames."

Within 15 to 20 minutes, the fire was through the roof and a car outside the building was also on fire, Dedmon said.

The surrounding streets were covered with up to a foot of water from the fire scene in some places. Two hours after the fire started, fire crews continued to direct massive streams of water onto the blaze.

Along with Elmwood Place, units responded from Norwood, Sycamore Township, Golf Manor, Springfield Township, St. Bernard and Glendale.

Cause of the fire is under investigation.


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