SHAMOKIN — At least seven people were left homeless in a fire late Tuesday night that damaged three properties in the 100 block of East Lincoln Street, including the Kallaway Center for the Arts.
Shamokin fire investigator and Patrolman Raymond Siko II said a canine and its handler from the Reading Fire Department inspected the fire scene Wednesday afternoon in hopes of determining a cause.
Siko said the K9 is trained to detect accelerants.
When asked if the fire was suspicious, Siko reserved comment: “We are confident that the fire started in a room on the second floor at 142 E. Lincoln St., but we are holding off on listing the nature of the fire due to our ongoing investigation.”
He said the 11 p.m. two-alarm blaze quickly spread to 138 and 144 E. Lincoln St.
Left homeless were two adults and four children who resided on the second floor of 138 E. Lincoln St., and Michael J. Robinson, 56, who resided in the same building.
Robinson is listed in city records as the owner of 138 and 142 E. Lincoln St.
Siko said someone knocked on the door at 138 E. Lincoln St. to alert the residents about the fire. He said all the occupants were able to escape unharmed.
Robinson, who ran unsuccessfully for city mayor in 2017, was not home at the time of the fire.
Siko said he doesn’t know if anyone lived at 142 E. Lincoln St. or if it is covered by insurance.
The officer said the tenants at 138 E. Lincoln St. are not insured.
He said the Kallaway Center, which is owned by the Northumberland County Council for the Arts, is insured.
The four-story property at 142 E. Lincoln St. sustained heavy fire damage along with smoke and water damage, Siko said. The three-story building at 138 E. Lincoln St. sustained fire damage to the third floor and smoke and water damage to the first and second floors. The three-story Kallaway Center also sustained fire damage to its third floor and smoke and water damage throughout the structure.
Jeanne Shaffer, executive director of the Northumberland County Council for the Arts, commended firefighters for preserving the Kallaway Center for the Arts while battling the blaze.
“My heart goes out to all the firefighters,” she said. “It could have been a lot worse if not for their great efforts in containing the fire.”
Shaffer said there was smoke and soot damage throughout the building. She said the skylight on the roof of the building was heavily damaged.
Women’s art classes, after-school art classes for children and ladies’ teas are held at the center, which was donated by the Kallaway family to the Northumberland County Council for the Arts several years ago.
Shamokin Councilman Scott Roughton, director of public safety, said neither 138 or 142 E. Lincoln St. is registered under the city’s landlord ordinance. He said Robinson has been cited in the past for violating the ordinance.
“We have no idea who the tenants are at 138 and 142 E. Lincoln St. because they aren’t registered as living there,” he said.
Shamokin Assistant Fire Chief Steve Jeffery was among the first personnel to arrive at the scene and immediately reported it as a second-alarm fire to Northumberland County Communications Center.
“Flames were shooting out the second floor at 142 E. Lincoln St. and the fire was spreading already to 138 E. Lincoln St. when I came upon the scene,” Jeffery said.
Siko and Shamokin Fire Chief Bruce Rogers commended city firefighters and mutual aid personnel for preventing the fire from causing more damage.
“We conducted a good, aggressive interior attack and had an excellent response from mutual aid units,” Rogers said.
“The Shamokin Fire Bureau and firefighters from neighboring communities did a phenomenal job in stopping the fire,” added Siko.
Rogers said firefighters conducted multiple searches of the properties to make sure everyone got out safely.
The fire was declared under control at 12:50 a.m. Wednesday. Firefighters remained at the scene until 4 a.m.
Siko and fire chiefs returned to the 100 block of East Lincoln Street later in the morning to continue their probe. A section of the street near the fire was cordoned off to traffic until late Wednesday morning.
Other Shamokin officials assisting at the scene were Shamokin Deputy Fire Chief Ken Pilkus, Battalion Chief Lester Yohe and Code Enforcement Officer Rick Bozza.
In addition to Shamokin firefighters and AREA Services employees, also summoned to assist were fire personnel from Coal Township, Mount Carmel, Atlas and Overlook. Placed on standby were Elysburg Fire Co., Mount Carmel Area Rescue Squad and a ladder truck from Ashland.