At least 5 hurt in Cheltenham four-alarm fire

Posted: October 07, 2012

At least five residents and two firefighters received minor injuries when a four-alarm fire swept through a condominium complex last night in Montgomery County, authorities said.

The blaze was reported at 9:23 p.m. in the three-story, 55-unit building at 1600 Church Rd. in Cheltenham Township, said Glenside Fire Chief Joe Stuckert.

Fire officials said at least five victims, including a firefighter, were transported from the scene. Multiple rescues were reported.

Stuckert said the fire began on the third-floor of the complex's "Beacon" building. But the blaze spread quickly and went to three alarms as more support crews were called.

Firefighters made their way into the hallway, and the building was evacuated. Some residents had to be evacuated.

Five residents and two 2 firefighters taken to a local hospital for treatment of minor injuries.

"It is a blessing," said Stuckert on the fact that no one was seriously hurt.

The 3rd floor roof collapsed after the evacuation. In total, about 126 firefighters and 35 emergency services responders.

Dave Schrader, a spokesman for the American Red Cross of Southeastern Pennsylvania, said 40 units were either damaged or impacted. Displaced residents were directed to Cheltenham High School for aid and temporary shelter. Residents can spend Saturday night at the shelter which will remain open until Sunday morning.

In, all about 100 were displaced, according to Schrader.  The group was a mix of seniors, college student and couples. Last night, about 32 people sought shelter at the school.  About 11 remained as of this morning as some found other places to stay.

Schrader encouraged anyone effected by the blaze to go to the shelter even if they don't need to stay there. He said those qualifying can also get assistance for clothing, food, prescriptions, glasses, or other  emergency needed to get through the next few days.

"My sons called me about 20 times from the Cheltenham High School football game and said our building was on fire," said "B" building resident William Morris, 47, who was inside their second floor unit at the time of the fire.

"I opened up the door to the hallway and it was black as night from the smoke. I saw the flames on the left side of the building, and me and my wife just kept moving down."

Morris said, "Everyone was pretty calm, the police and fire did a good job of that." After a few hours of waiting, Morris was brought to Cheltenham High School for support by the Red Cross, and spent the night at a cousin's house. "We might have to get a hotel for tonight," said Morris. "I need to get in the building though.  My Dad's Purple Heart is still in there. I only made it out with my computer, wallet, and car keys."

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