When 90-year-old Isabelle Lehman looked out her window in her third-floor apartment in Holly Hall at the Villlage of Pineford on Sunday, April 3, she saw something that looked like a cloud drift across the lawn below.
It wasn't a cloud – it was smoke. She looked up to see a patio on an upper floor in flames.
She quickly called Dauphin County 9-1-1, and when a dispatcher asked her to stay on the line, she replied, "I can't. I have to get out.'' She grabbed her purse and left her apartment, her home for the past 30 years.
Flames ravaged the top of Holly Hall as firefighters from Middletown and several neighboring companies battled the blaze, which began around 11:30 a.m. Sunday.
The cause is under investigation by the borough, state police fire marshal and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, said Det. Mark Hovan, a spokesman for the Middletown Police Department. No one will be allowed back into Holly Hall for at least seven days because the fire is considered a "crime scene'' until officials learn more about its cause, Hovan said.
Miraculously, no injuries were reported. "It certainly is a tragedy, but the thing I am most grateful for is that I have not heard of one injury, be it crew or residents,'' said Middletown Mayor James H. Curry III. "That's something I'm extremely thankful for.''
Middletowners rushed to the rescue of fire victims, donating piles of clothing, toiletries, blankets – even toys – and food that was provided at an emergency shelter at the MCSO Building on Emaus Street. About 60 people arrived for aid, but everyone found a place to stay, said Dan Tobin, director of communications for the American Red Cross' Central Pennsylvania Chapter.
The donations from local citizens were "phenomenal,'' Tobin said. "The outpouring of support from this community is unbelievable,'' Tobin said, as fire victims wandered in and out of the MCSO Building.
Word of the victims' plight spread over Facebook, and people began arriving at the MCSO Building with donations. There were piles of jackets and blankets, soap and new toothbrushes, cake and pizza, sliced turkey and ham and mashed potatoes.
"People came in droves,'' said Dawn Knull, a Middletown Borough Council member, as she stood among donated supplies at the MCSO Building. The effort was not surprising, she said. "This is Middletown. Every disaster we have had, something like this happens. Middletown people come together.''
For Lehman, the greatest necessity was a place to stay, and she found one – another apartment in Pineford, where she wants to remain. She left behind an apartment filled with memories – knickknacks and furniture she's owned for decades. "I have good insurance, and I can buy new,'' she said. "But I would hate to think I lost some things I've had a long time.''
When she walked out the front door of Holly Hall, she was struck by the serenity. "It was very calm,'' she said, until fire engines began to pull up and firefighters shouted for residents to evacuate the building.
Standing in the MCSO Building, surveying donated items, Lehman found it difficult to sum up her feelings about what happened.
"It takes a while to sink in,'' she said.
Fire victims who need supplies – clothing, toiletries and other items – can get them from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Monday, April 4 at the MCSO Building on Emaus Street, borough officials said.
A partial list of those who donated to the fire victims: Tattered Flag (clothing), the Antique Auto Museum in Hershey (jackets), Roberto's Pizza (food), the Brownstone Cafe (food), and several local churches, among others, borough officials said.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 05 April 2016 14:29
Written by Eric Wise
Ellen Castagneto, superintendent of the Steelton-Highspire School District, will not be retained at the end of her current contract in June 2017.
The Steelton-Highspire School Board voted 7-0 with no discussion on Thursday, March 17 to approve a resolution stating the board will seek other candidates because her contract will not be renewed. Castagneto remains an employee of the district although she has not worked at the school district's administrative offices since October 2015, when the board approved leave under the district's policy for Family Medical Leave Act.
Steelton-Highspire continues to pay Castagneto her full salary and benefits, although her FMLA leave expired in January, and she has not returned to work.
Next week's edition of the Press And Journal will publish more information on this developing story.
Last Updated on Friday, 18 March 2016 07:10
Dauphin Co. Commissioners Jeff Haste, Mike Pries and George P. Hartwick, III are offering an interest-free grace period to all property owners with 2015 delinquent property taxes.
County officials noted approximately 11,300 first-class letters, which include a breakdown of taxes owed and costs for properties, were mailed in February to property owners with unpaid 2015 real property taxes. Property owners must pay their taxes in full by March 31, 2016 to take advantage of the program.
“In some cases, property owners misplace their tax bills or mistakenly assume their mortgage company already paid their taxes,” said Commissioner George Hartwick, who oversees the county’s Tax Claim Bureau. “This interest-free grace period gives property owners another chance to pay their taxes.”
“By waiving the interest period, we increase collections and reduce our mailing costs,” said Commissioner Jeff Haste. “This is another way that we keep revenues coming in and costs from going up.”
Last year, the county’s Tax Claim Bureau collected $5 million, or 23 percent of 2014 delinquent property taxes, during the grace period. The county also saved approximately $20,000 in postage and printing costs for statutorily mandated certified mail notices.
“This program not only quickly resolves many of our claims, but it also helps taxpayers,” said Commissioner Mike Pries. “Our goal is to make the tax-paying process easier for those who are trying to pay their bills and get back on their feet.”
Last Updated on Tuesday, 01 March 2016 07:56
Middletown Councilor Diana McGlone reported progress in the town's public work’s department’s efforts to deal with the aftermath of Winter Storm Jonas's gift of over 30 inches of snow..
In a post in Social Media McGlone noted snow removal on Thurs., Jan. 28 will be focused as follows:
•Union St. south of Ann St.
•Pine St. from Spruce St. to Park Circle Dr.
•Widening snow clogged areas and pushing snow back on Oak Hills Drive and Adelia S. north bound from Emaus St.
•Cleaning sidewalks on Borough’s properties
•Other identified problem areas.
Last Updated on Thursday, 28 January 2016 13:27
Last Updated on Wednesday, 27 January 2016 11:18