Fire in Montco condos routs 100

A burned-out building at the 1600 Church Road Condominiums in Cheltenham Township.
A burned-out building at the 1600 Church Road Condominiums in Cheltenham Township. (ED HILLE / Staff Photographer)

Only minor injuries were reported. Displaced residents were sent to Cheltenham High for aid and shelter.

Posted: October 08, 2012

The phone in the Morris family's Wyncote apartment rang and rang Friday night till William Morris finally awoke - and not a minute too soon.

"My sons called me about 20 times from the Cheltenham High School football game and said our building was on fire," said Morris, 47. He opened the door of the second-floor unit and saw that the hallway "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."

At least five residents and two firefighters received minor injuries when a four-alarm fire swept through the 55-unit condominium complex Friday night in Montgomery County, authorities said. A third-floor roof collapsed after residents had been evacuated.

No major injuries were reported. "It is a blessing," Glenside Fire Chief Joe Stuckert said.

In all, about 160 fire and emergency personnel evacuated the building and fought the blaze in the 1600 Church Road Condominiums. Officials said some residents had to be rescued from balconies.

The cause of the fire is under investigation. It was reported initially as a small stove fire at 9:23 p.m. in the three-story building on Church Road in Cheltenham Township, Stuckert said.

He said the fire began on the third floor of the complex's Beacon building, but spread quickly and went to a third and fourth alarm as more crews were called.

Firefighters initially made their way into the hallway and began evacuating the building. Some residents had to be rescued from their units.

Dave Schrader, a spokesman for the American Red Cross of Southeastern Pennsylvania, said 40 apartment units were damaged to varying degrees. Displaced residents were directed to Cheltenham High for aid and temporary shelter.

In all, about 100 people were displaced, according to Schrader, ranging from elderly residents to college students from nearby Arcadia University. About 32 people sought shelter at the school. A dozen planned to stay Saturday night; some found other places to stay.

Schrader encouraged anyone affected by the blaze to go to the temporary shelter even if he or she did not need to spend the night there. He said those qualifying could also receive help with clothing, food, prescriptions, glasses, or any other essentials needed to get through the next few days.

Red Cross volunteers were to be at the school for the rest of the weekend and beyond, Schrader said. He said Cheltenham High would remain the primary shelter area even after classes resumed Monday.

Among those who went to the high school for aid from the Red Cross were the Morrises, who eventually spent the night at a cousin's house.

William Morris praised the work of the firefighters and emergency personnel. "Everyone was pretty calm," he said. "The police and fire did a good job of that."

He was one of many residents who had to leave treasured possessions behind.

"We might have to get a hotel for tonight," Morris said. "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."


Contact Joe Trinacria

at 215-854-2771 or jtrinacria@phillynews.com .

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