Sharpsville fire believed to be accidental

SHARPSVILLE, Pa. (WKBN) –Some residents who were displaced by Saturday’s fire at Wade Mertz Towers in Sharpsville could return within the next couple of days.

Officials say crews must first repair the elevator and fire safety system. Those residents whose apartments suffered more extensive damage from the fire could be out of their home longer, until repairs are complete.

About 30 workers from SERVPRO, which specializes in repairing fire and water damage, are working around the clock.

The Western Pennsylvania Red Cross is still helping only eight of the 106 individuals displaced, according to a communications official with the organization.

Western Pennsylvania Red Cross Interim Communications Director Kevin Brown said Monday that those eight could not find any other place to live and would return to the building once it is deemed safe.

Early Sunday night, a shelter at St. Bartholomew Catholic Church was closed. At one time, 24 individuals displaced by the fire were taking shelter there.

Officials are still trying to figure out exactly what caused the fire, but believe it’s accidental.

Residents were still trying to gather some belongings on Sunday.

“Everyone is in shock. I just talked to some of the elderly inside and you can tell everyone’s in shock,” said Mike Gallagher, whose mother lives in the building.

The fire forced 106 seniors out of their apartments. Even though it was contained to one unit on the fourth floor, smoke damaged the upper levels and water flooded the first three on the building’s South side.

A sign on the door reads “Effective March 30th the building is closed,” and crews have begun their cleanup.

The American Red Cross set up a shelter for folks to spend the night, but volunteers said they just want to go home.

“The information they want just isn’t coming fast enough and we relay that as soon as we get that information, and they’re anxious you know they haven’t been home since late last night. We are working very closely with them to keep them comfortable,” said Red Cross Disaster Program Manager Cathy Balko.

Assistant Fire Chief Edwin Getway indicated that until the building passes inspection, the tenants can’t go back in.

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