Fire rips through Bellefonte apartments

Pauline Alterio, Social Media and Website Manager

An apartment complex was destroyed and two homes were damaged on December 30 after a second-alarm fire ignited on Bellefonte’s West Water Street.

Nine area fire crews responded to the incident, when reports of a building fire were issued around 6:40 p.m. According to Captain 2-1 Malachi Moyer of the Undine Fire Company, crews arrived to 15 feet of flames raging from the backside windows of an apartment building engulfed in heavy smoke. Crews immediately tapped two nearby fire hydrants, but quickly faced issues that left the hydrants dry. 

In a January 3 Bellefonte Borough Council meeting, Borough Manager Ralph Stewart explained the hydrant problems, saying they were not, in fact, “dead” as social media posts had been alleging since the night of the fire. 

“They weren’t dead. They had two pumper trucks hooked up to the same water line and pulling the water out of the line,” Stewart said. You can’t have two pumper trucks pulling water off the same water main. They basically starved the water pipe and prevented water from being pumped. You can’t have that much pumping power on one water main.”

In an interview with the Centre Daily Times, Moyer said the water supply issue allowed the fire to spread to the attic of a next-door building and melted siding off of another.

“Everything went smooth once we got the water supply hiccup sorted, and crews made a significant impact on the fire attack,” Moyer said. “The main body of fire was probably under control in about an hour and a half.”

The fire completely destroyed all three apartments in the building where the fire started, leaving all seven of their residents without a home, though also without injury.

But just two hours after the blaze was put out, community members of Bellefonte and State College stepped up. They began organizing on social media, putting together GoFundMe campaigns and donation drop off locations to collect items like clothing and toys for those impacted by the fire.

Since the day of the fire, one GoFundMe page has collected over $44,000, half of which came from NBA star Kyrie Irving, who has a history of donating to GoFundMe pages across the US. All of the donations will be given to the apartment victims.

Another GoFundMe, this one specifically for the owners of the house that suffered fire damage in its attic, has raised over $1,800, while one for main apartment resident Tashoi Evans over $3,300.