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CHAMBERSBURG — An investigation into a fire that extensively damaged two buildings in downtown Chambersburg Sunday continues today, fire officials said.

Four people were treated at Chambersburg Hospital and then released as a result of the Washington Street fire. Two residents were treated for smoke inhalation. Two firefighters were treated at the scene and then transported to the hospital for heat-related issues.

Chambersburg Fire Chief Dusty Ulrich said all four have since been released from the hospital.

Chambersburg Fire Department was alerted at 4:45 p.m. for a reported apartment building fire at 37 West Washington Street. The area is in downtown Chambersburg where buildings sit close together.

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The entire downtown area was burned to the ground during the Civil War by Confederate troops. The community is getting ready to celebrate the rebirth of the town with a massive sound and light show Saturday recreating that event.

By the end of the day Sunday, 74 firefighters from 15 fire companies fought the fire. Franklin County Air Unit and personnel from half a dozen Emergency Medical Services were also on hand to assist.

Flames were already showing through a second-floor apartment above Nanas Wash House when the first firefighters arrived at 4:49 p.m. The fire quickly spread and as already in adjoining buildings as firefighters hooked hoses onto nearby fire hydrants.

Three alarms called for more firefighters, resources

Due to the deteriorating conditions and the hot and humid weather, a second alarm was quickly requested. A third alarm went out at 5:36 p.m., in part because of the heat and a need to rotate firefighters.

“The first firefighters on the scene initiated an interior fire attack as well as a primary search of both buildings involved. But the fire spread quickly and the crews were pulled out of the building due to safety concerns”

Chambersburg Fire Chief Dusty Ulrich
Flames shoot from windows of apartments above Nanas Wash House Sunday
Flames shoot from windows of apartments above Nanas Wash House Sunday.

The fire was brought under control within 35 minutes, but firefighters were on the scene much longer putting out hotspots. The last of Chambersburg Fire Department’s firefighters didn’t leave the scene until 11 p.m.

A crowd quickly gathered on porches and sidewalks across from Nanas but stayed behind police barrier tape put up to keep the public away from the immediate fire scene.

“What’s happening,” one young boy asked his father as he watched bright, hot flames licking at the roof from a second-story window.

“Nanas is on fire,” the father answered. The child wanted to know about the washing machines inside. “They are gone,” the father said, shaking his head and clutching the boy’s hand tightly.

Church, citizens take care of firefighters

First Lutheran Church quickly responded to the situation and opened its doors to firefighters as a cooling station. The church is next door to the two buildings, separated by an alley. The Capitol Theatre parking lot is located on the east side of Nanas Wash House.

“We send our gratitude out to the First Lutheran Church on West Washington Street to allow a place for the firefighters to cool down while operating on the fire,” Ulrich said.

Chambersburg residents began dropping off bottled water for firefighters, something else Ulrich expressed gratitude for in a press release Monday.

Local citizens brought bottled water to firefighters Sunday.
Local citizens brought bottled water to firefighters Sunday.

The layout of the buildings and the complexity of the fire required extensive overall operations to extinguish all hotspots.

There was extensive damage to the second-floor apartments above Nanas as well as the exposure building. The addresses that were affected were 37 West Washington Street (Nana’s Washhouse), 39 West Washington Street (Second Floor Apartments), and 41 West Washington Street (First Floor Apartments).

Ulrich said a cause has not yet been determined and the fire is under investigation. There is no estimate on cost damage at this time.

The apartments and Nana’s Washhouse were occupied at the time of the fire. A total of thirteen people were displaced and are being assisted by the Red Cross.

Agencies that were on the scene include:

“The Chambersburg Fire Department would like to extend our appreciation out to the departments that assisted with this fire as well as all of the citizens who stopped by and dropped off bottled water for the firefighters”

Chambersburg Fire Chief Dusty Ulrich

The last fire department unit cleared the scene at 11:00 pm.

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