Update: Community joins forces to deliver rapid support for fire victims
EASTON, Pa. — As the community continues to deal with the aftermath of the fire that ravaged the 900 block of Ferry Street on Memorial Day, the origin of the blaze is still unknown.
Meanwhile, United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley and Greater Easton Development Partnership have joined forces to get rapid support for those affected by the fire.
- Easton Fire Department Fire Chief Henry Hennings said the cause and origin of the blaze that destroyed the 900 block of Ferry Street "will take a while"
- Hennings also noted some rekindling at the scene Wednesday morning was not surprising, and was quickly addressed with no issues
- Mayor Sal Panto Jr. announced the city has started a website to better direct contributions and donations to the community affected by the fire
Easton Fire Chief Henry Hennings said Tuesday the buildings on Ferry Street damaged in the blaze lacked firewalls, and likely had no firestopping materials within the walls.
But the buildings met construction standards when they were built, Hennings said.
Fire trucks returned to the scene because of a rekindling Wednesday morning, but Hennings said it was nothing out of the ordinary.
“Typically, with a fire this big, you have debris on top of some hot embers," he said. "It just insulates everything, and then finally, it will catch on fire again, but it wasn't anything of any consequence."
The fire ravaged 16 homes and displaced at least 33 people.
'We'll be looking at all that'
After a meeting with Mayor Sal Panto Jr. and city officials Wednesday afternoon, Hennings said it will take time to come to a conclusion on the cause and origin of the blaze.
“There's a lot of technical details that kind of go into that," Hennings said. "For the investigation, they're going to have to interview all the people that were involved. And, as you know, they’re displaced, they’re not all in one place.
"For the investigation, they're going to have to interview all the people that were involved. And, as you know, they’re displaced, they’re not all in one place."Easton Fire Chief Henry Hennings
"We actually have to find them and then interview them so they can give us what they saw, what they heard, what they did. It's a process, and it will take awhile."
Hennings said the structures, built with balloon frame construction in which a building's frame is made of small members nailed together in lieu of heavier materials joined by mortises and tenons — met city code standards when they were first erected, Hennings said.
“That will be vetted out during the investigation," he said. "But as far as, like, code violations and stuff like that, unless the home has been remodeled, then they're most likely in compliance with whatever the code was at the time the house was built.
"We'll be looking at all that as we as we go through, but like I said, it's going to take a considerable amount of time for the size of the fire that we had.”
For the time being, the houses will remain standing until the investigation is complete, Hennings confirmed.
Ferry Street Fire Fund established
Easton Chief Code Administrator Sharbel Koorie, who was present on the block Wednesday morning, confirmed the rekindling and quick response from the department, and added that city officials are evaluating the buildings to see what can be done with the remains.
“So now we just have to re-secure all the buildings and go from there," Koorie said. "We had structural engineers here today, structural engineers went through all the properties and we're going to come up with a plan — what properties will have to be torn down and what could be saved, if any can be saved."
“We have a lot of support, a lot of people want to give money and clothing, but they don't know where to take it. So we're setting that up. We’ll have a page where they know where to go with it.”Easton Mayor Sal Panto Jr.
According to a release from United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley, it and the Greater Easton Development Project, have established the Ferry Street Fire Fund to help support the residents affected.
Both groups teamed up with other local organizations, including the Lehigh Conference of Churches, Third Street Alliance for Women and Children and others to provide fundraising and coordinate relief efforts.
Thirty-three residents were displaced by the fire, including nine children and two senior citizens, the United Way said in the statement.
The American Red Cross Pennsylvania Rivers Chapter was among the first groups to provide relief to the victims, offering shelter, food, and emergency supplies.
The organization held a meeting with other groups and the fire victims at Paxinosa Elementary School, which had served as a temporary shelter, to help them move forward Tuesday afternoon.
Now, United Way and the GEDP are working with their partners to offer long-term assistance with 100% of the funding raised going to those affected by the disaster.
“We understand that most families have lost everything and will not be able to return to their homes. At United Way, we respond to the urgent and emerging needs of our community,” David Lewis, president of United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley, said.
“Through this partnership with trusted and effective partners in the Easton community, donors can take comfort in knowing that their funds will be properly managed and used only for those affected by the fire.”
Donations can be made onlineor via mail, with checks made payable to UWGLV, 1110 American Parkway NE, Suite F-120, Allentown 18109, ATTN. “Ferry Street Fire Fund”.
Additionally, individuals interested in making a donation can text “EASTON” to 40403. Gift card donations are also encouraged.
“Greater Easton Development Partnership and its West Ward Community Initiative welcome this partnership to bring both emergency support and funds to the families impacted by this fire,” Jared Mast, executive director of the Greater Easton Development Partnership, who lives one block from the site of the fire, said.
“Lives have been turned upside down in a terrible way, and we hope this partnership helps to start to set things right.”
Mast noted the housing market in Easton is “pretty tight” at the moment, which may prove to be difficult for the victims to navigate.
“There's a mix of both owner-occupied folks that were affected, and also renters," Mast said. "And I do think it'd be a challenge to quickly find comparable housing or, as a renter or an owner, having to deal with either renters’ insurance or homeowner’s insurance and navigating that process, alongside a search for emergency housing, and then longer-term housing."
Financial support from the Ferry Street Fire Fund will go a long way toward helping individuals and families get back on their feet in the midst of these and other issues, Mast said, alongside other community-based efforts.
Website for aid launched
Easton officials also have launched a website to assist the public when it comes to making donations, either material or financial, to the victims of the fire.
The sitefeatures links to St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church and the Easton Salvation Army.
Easton Mayor Sal Panto Jr. previously stated he wished to centralize various charitable efforts in order to ensure resources were directed to the community in the most direct and efficient way possible.
“We needed an organization to collect the money and account for the money,” Panto said. “That was my concern.”
Panto added the city is seeking warehouse space to accommodate furniture donations for the victims.
“We don't have that location yet, but they probably won't need that for another two or three weeks before we find anything suitable,” Panto said.
“We have a lot of support, a lot of people want to give money and clothing, but they don't know where to take it," Panto said.
Panto said clothing donations are being taken at the Northampton Street Salvation Army for the time being.