POWDER MILL APARTMENTS
Firefighters led multiple residents from their smoke-filled apartments when a fire destroyed a ground-floor unit at 282 Powder Mill Lane in the Powder Mill Apartments complex in Emmaus overnight from just before midnight Oct. 24 to 25. The final fire units were released about 4 a.m.
Ten residents were taken to area hospitals after multiple ambulances responded to a “Level 1 Mass Casualty Incident” called after the fire went to a second alarm. The resident of the apartment unit destroyed was treated for burns and the others received treatment for smoke inhalation.
The incident began shortly before midnight when the Lehigh County 911 Center dispatched Emmaus Fire Department and Western Salisbury Volunteer Fire Company units to an “apartment building fire with entrapment.”
Upon arrival, seeing heavy smoke and flames, the crew on the first-arriving Emmaus engine immediately called for a second alarm, bringing units from an additional five stations. While the fire was quelled in about 15 minutes, Emmaus and Western Salisbury firefighters went door-to-door rousing residents, in some cases forcing entry to wake sleeping victims in nine smoke-filled apartments. Residents were led to safety in their nightclothes.
Emmaus Ambulance Corps personnel declared the mass casualty incident bringing additional ambulances from Macungie and Cetronia and from Kutztown and Hamburg in Berks County.
Emmaus Ambulance Chief Jeff Hoffman said 10 residents were treated at the scene and later transported to area hospitals. Two additional residents were treated at the scene but declined transport to a hospital. A Lehigh Valley Health Network emergency physician affiliated with the Emmaus Ambulance Corps was on the scene to help evaluate victims.
Western Salisbury Fire Chief Joshua Wells was the first chief officer to arrive and he assumed incident command, with Emmaus Fire Chief John Price joining him shortly thereafter.
As the fire was brought under control, the main concern was sleeping residents in other apartments in the smoke-filled building. Firefighters helped evacuate the residents, in some cases sharing breathing masks to limit victims’ exposure to smoke and toxic fumes. All of the evacuated residents fled to safety and were led to ambulance crews who wrapped them in blankets for treatment and transport.
Emmaus Fire Chief John Price, who is also the borough’s fire marshal, said Oct. 25 he was confident the fire was accidental, but additional investigation was needed to pinpoint the ignition source.
Responding on the second alarm were units from Eastern Salisbury, Lower Macungie, Alburtis and the South Whitehall air cascade unit housed at the Woodlawn fire station.