Regina Harman was awoken at 1:30 a.m. Friday to pounding on her front door. It was the police.
They shouted for the 72-year-old to get up, as a fire grew inside the building connected to hers.
“I grabbed my pocketbook and ran,” Harman, still in her pajamas, said late Friday morning outside her apartment building at Lancaster Township’s Kensington Club Apartments.
The fire, which was called in at 1:05 a.m. Friday at 622 Wyncroft Lane, displaced 34 people — including Harman, who said her insurance company is putting her up in a hotel.
All of the residents were safely evacuated from the building, and many watched the blaze wrapped in blankets outside.
A couple people declined treatment for smoke inhalation, Lancaster Township assistant fire Chief Mike Pickard said.
He said a flat rubber roof made it difficult to fight the fire because it insulated the heat and flames.
The cause of the fire is undetermined, according to Trooper Tim Pray, a Pennsylvania State Police fire marshal. He said the building was “structurally unsafe” to investigate inside.
Red Cross assists families
The Red Cross is assisting 18 families, approximately 34 people, according to communications director Lisa Landis. That includes a number of small children, she said.
Anyone who needs to get into contact with Red Cross can call the dispatch number at 1-800-422-7677.
Ron Simoncini, a spokesman for the apartment complex, said property managers received reports of the fire at Building 622 at 1 a.m. Friday. Ten of its 12 unites were occupied, he said, adding that the building “has been lost.”
Simoncini said displaced residents are being given debit cards to check into hotels. He added that Kensington is arranging to relocate displaced families to new apartments on-site.
‘I want to help’
On Monday afternoon, Angie Piel, a resident from nearby Hamilton Park, interviewed a group of Spanish speaking residents who were displaced by the fire. Piel, 61, said she wanted to learn all she could so she can share and collect what residents need.
She knows how it feels — she experienced a fire at her home 13 years ago, she said.
Speaking Spanish with the group, which included men in their 30s, Piel said they told her one man’s wife is pregnant and was treated at the hospital. Another couple has a 2-year-old girl.
“I want to help,” Piel said. “I want to help anybody at the holidays, but people who lose everything who have children who have no means, you know, it’s our responsibility to do that.”
Piel said she already had friends tell her they were willing to donate clothing and other supplies.
Decade’s third major fire
Friday’s blaze was the third major fire at the 500-unit Kensington Club Apartments, located on Wabank Road, in the past seven years.
In March 2018, about 24 residents were displaced after a fire that started when workers replacing a rubber roof attempted to seal a seam with a torch. The fire destroyed an eight-unit building and caused an estimated $1.2 million in damage.
In July 2012, about 40 residents were displaced after a fire broke out when a maintenance worker used a cleaning material near a hot water heater, fire officials said at the time. That fire destroyed four apartments and damaged four others, causing an estimated $325,000 in damage. The fire also forced the cutting of gas service to 24 units, adding to the number of people displaced.