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'I lost everything': Cause of Allentown apartments fire under investigation

Fire rear damage.jpg
Phil Gianficaro
The cause of three-alarm fire at 1138 and 1142 Hamilton St. in Allentown remains under investigation. Shown is the extensive damage to 1138 Hamilton St.

ALLENTOWN, Pa. — Moses Saldana crouched in the parking lot behind his apartment packing a small travel bag.

But with nowhere to travel.

The black satchel contained some personal belongings, a few toiletry items and nothing more.

“I lost everything,” Saldana said, quietly.


A three-alarm fire tore through the rear of his apartment at 1138 Hamilton St. and another at 1140 Hamilton St. about 5:30 p.m. Monday.

Four hours later, the fire was out.

So, too, was Saldana.

“I don’t know where I’m going to go,” he said.

“I lost everything. Everything.”
Moses Saldana, fire victim

Saldana is among a reported 20 residents displaced by the blaze, Allentown Deputy Fire Chief Christian Williams said Tuesday.

The cause of the fire is under investigation.

"We know smoke detectors were present and functioning in some of the buildings," Williams said. "We have not yet confirmed if they were in all the buildings."

The buildings involved were a mix of commercial and residential properties. Four buildings were damaged by the fire and adjoining structures suffered smoke and water damage.

All occupants of the fire buildings escaped uninjured, officials said.

Six firefighters were transported by Allentown Paramedics for non-life threatening injuries. All were treated at the hospital and released.

Additionally, one occupant from a nearby structure was transported for a medical emergency.

Fire drone.jpg
Phil Gianficaro
A drone takes images of fire-damaged apartments in the 1100 block of Hamilton St. in Allentown on Tuesday.

An aggressive attack, but damage

Firefighters immediately entered the buildings and observed a large amount of smoke, high heat and limited visibility on the top floors, according to an Allentown Fire Department release.

An aggressive attack on the fire was made while conducting search-and-rescue efforts throughout the interior to confirm all occupants had safely evacuated.

Firefighters quickly entered and searched the adjoining structures. Additional firefighters went to the roof to ventilate the structure and limit fire spread.

Conditions inside the buildings deteriorated, requiring firefighters to vacate the buildings and continue to battle the fire from the exterior.

Fire man bench.jpg
Phil Gianficaro
An unidentified man sits outside his apartment at 1140 Hamilton St. in Allentown that was destroyed by fire on Monday.

The apartment at 1136 Hamilton St. sustained exterior damage, windows damage and water damage.

The apartment at 1142 Hamilton St. sustained damage because of a trench cut out of the roof to prevent an area that was not involved in the fire from being affected.

Power was restored to all buildings in the area of the fire by early Tuesday morning, except those affected by the blaze, Williams said.

The aftermath

On Tuesday afternoon, investigators operated a drone over the damaged apartments. The captured images may shed light on the cause of the fire, they said.

“The back parts of the apartments sustained significant damage. We’ve determined that only the top floor down to the first floor needs to be demolished.”
Allentown building code official Joseph Franzone

Joseph Franzone, an Allentown building code official, stood outside the burned-out apartments Tuesday.

“The back parts of the apartments sustained significant damage,” he said. “We’ve determined that only the top floor down to the first floor needs to be demolished.”

According to Allentown Fire Department, displaced residents are being assisted by the Pennsylvania Rivers Chapter of the American Red Cross.

Allentown Fire Department was assisted on the scene by Woodlawn Fire Company, Greenawalds Fire Company, Upper Macungie Township Station 56, Catasauqua Fire Department, Cetronia Fire Department and Whitehall Fire Department Station.