A wind-blown fire injured a firefighter, destroyed two duplexes, displaced six families and cut power to much of Ephrata Borough overnight Thursday, an official said.
The firefighter, 28-year-old Derek Vallery, suffered minor burns on his neck and shoulder, Ephrata Pioneer Fire Chief Allen Pettyjohn said. He was treated at Ephrata Community Hospital and released.
One of two fellow firefighters who helped Vallery out of the burning building was treated by medical personnel at the scene for overexertion, Pettyjohn said. He was fine.
The fire started after an occupant of 21 S. Maple St. discarded cigarettes in a plastic container on a side porch and went inside, the chief said. Wind rapidly spread the fire.
The 10:30 p.m. blaze spread through the duplex, which includes 23 S. Maple St. It also spread to another duplex several feet away at 19 S. Maple St.
Residents of the duplexes safely evacuated.
Flames could be seen above the two-and-a-half story duplexes when firefighters arrived.
Crews searched the buildings and worked to prevent the fire from spreading.
The fire caused power lines to fall outside the homes, and firefighters had to avoid them before the borough turned off power to the area. The biggest concern was a nearby 7,500-volt power line. Shutting off that line caused a “fair amount” of the borough to lose power for about two hours, Pettyjohn said. Some residents got electricity back by 2 a.m. and the rest had it restored by 3:30 a.m.
Four hydrants were tapped to supply water to extinguish the fire. After Vallery was injured just before 11 p.m., all firefighters evacuated the burning buildings and fought the blaze from the outside.
About 100 area volunteer firefighters brought the fire under control around 1 a.m.
Both duplexes were destroyed and condemned. No damage estimates were available Friday.
The owners live in each of the duplexes, Pettyjohn said, but they also each rent out apartments in the buildings as well. He said six families in all were displaced. He did not know the number of people or their names.
Charles and Pamela Malkemes own the duplex at 21/23 S. Maple St., according to property records. Helen Honiara owns the duplex at 19 S. Maple St.
A state police fire marshal determined improperly discarded cigarettes sparked the accidental fire, Pettyjohn said.
“This affected a number of families,” Pettyjohn said. “You got to be very careful when you are discarding your cigarettes.”
Another fire struck a Salunga home Friday morning.