Five Dead in Pennsylvania Apartment Fire

An early morning fire tore through an apartment house early Tuesday morning, killing five people.

At least two families lived in the three-story, brick and white-shingle home, which had 10 tenants in its four apartments, authorities and neighbors said.

The coroner released the names of two victims — a 19-year-old woman and an 86-year-old woman. He said the other three victims may not be conclusively identified until dental records are consulted.

Trevorton Fire Chief Dan Schlegel said he arrived soon after the fire was reported at about 1:30 a.m and found flames shooting out of the front of the building.

About 75 firefighters worked through bitter cold temperatures to contain the fire in four to five hours, Schlegel said. Icicles hung off the ruins of the home and on power lines in front of the building.

The blaze destroyed the front of the building, where charred beams and furniture jutted into the air. The back half of the building was largely intact, but the roof and third floor were sagging at the front.

The unstable conditions made it difficult to conduct a thorough investigation, said the state police fire marshal, Cpl. David Dixon. He said it was too early to determine on a cause.

A state police spokesman, Trooper Matthew Burrows, said late Tuesday afternoon that authorities had accounted for everyone believed to be in the building. He said investigators would likely return to the scene Wednesday.

Northumberland County Coroner James F. Kelley said Althea Marie Colasurdo, 19, was pronounced dead in an ambulance after being taken from the building. The body of Cecelia R. Vottero, 86, was found in a second-floor bedroom, Kelley said.

The other three victims are believed to be an 11-year-old boy, and a man and woman, both 37. Kelley said they were found together in a room on the first floor.

"It was just horrible," said a weary-eyed Stephen Druckenmiller, who lives across the street. Druckenmiller, 25, was working on his computer when he said he heard two loud pops, then peered outside.

"I looked out the door and I saw an orange glow," he said from his front porch later Tuesday.

He said he raced across the street in just his shorts, a shirt and a pair of boots and tried to enter the second-floor apartments, "but I couldn't get in more than five, 10 feet. The flames were pouring in my face."

Druckenmiller said a father and two young children who lived in a first-floor apartment escaped and took shelter in his home. The mother, who was working overnight, arrived later Tuesday morning and reunited with the rest of the family at Druckenmiller's house.

One firefighter was taken to a hospital for smoke-inhalation treatment and released.

Word of the blaze spread quickly in Trevorton, a central Pennsylvania borough of about 2,000 residents located about 35 miles north of Harrisburg. Parents walking their kids home from school stopped to gaze at the scene, and neighbors watched from porches and back alleys.

Rumors spread through town about who the victims might be and if people knew them.

Standing on their front porch one block from the ruined home, Michele Fisher and her husband, Kevin, said they knew a child that lived in the home.

Fisher said she awoke to the sirens and strobe lights from fire trucks at 2 a.m., and saw flames shooting five to 10 feet in the air.

"It looked like daylight," she said.