Meadville Tribune

June 26, 2013

Fire chief says oxygen-using smoker cause of Holland Towers blaze

By Konstantine Fekos
Meadville Tribune

MEADVILLE — “It could have been a lot worse if not for the response of fire and rescue crews,” a thankful Kathleen Haney DiPetta wrote on the Tribune’s Facebook page after a late Tuesday fire that sent three people to the hospital, displaced several people and caused at least $100,000 in damage to Holland Towers, a public housing complex for senior citizens in downtown Meadville.

The blaze was caused by a resident who was smoking while using an oxygen tank, according to Meadville Fire Chief Larndo (Tunie) Hedrick. As the fire is still under investigation, he declined to discuss whether any charges would be filed against the smoker.

In addition to the severe fire damage to the fifth-floor apartment where the fire started, Meadville Housing Authority Executive Director Bill Thomas said the entire first floor suffered severe water damage due to a broken steel water pipe in the maintenance room that broke during the fire. Two inches of water from the broken pipe flooded into the first floor, displacing residents to the care of the Red Cross. Holland Towers is a seven-story building on Market Street with about 130 units.

The cost of the damage should be covered by insurance, said Thomas, who hopes to have the first floor dried out and repaired within the next few days.

Meadville Central Fire Department was dispatched to Holland Towers at approximately 11:49 p.m. Tuesday night and remained on scene until about 2:45 a.m. Wednesday.

Three Holland Towers residents were taken by ambulance to Meadville Medical Center for injuries of unknown severity.

“I'd like to thank the fire department for their quick and caring response to this fire,” wrote DiPetta, who said she lives in Holland Towers. “Thank you also to the ambulance and emergency medical technicians for their service and care.”



Konstantine Fekos can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at kfekos@meadvilletribune.com.