Electrical problem sparked Pottstown fire

January 28, 2008 3:30:17 PM PST
Several properties were ravaged by Saturday's fire in Pottstown. Investigators said the fire started in an electrical panel in the back of a dollar store. That store was destroyed and three others were heavily damaged. Twenty people living in upstairs apartments survived, but they lost everything.

A neighboring furniture store that fared better cleaned up the effects of smoke and water damage on Monday.

"We're getting through it. The smoke and water impacted showroom, but we have a separate warehouse where deliveries to customers originate. It was not touched," said Marsha Petnick.

These businesses are in the heart of Pottstown's historic district, which has seen a resurgence in recent years. Naturally, many people wonder what impact the fire will have on that resurgence.

"I've seen Pottstown come and go and I think now it's really starting to revitalize. It's sad to see people who are starting to make things go lose their businesses. That hurts a lot," said Joe Schlegal.

Schlegel, a longtime Pottstown resident and business owner once represented the historic district on boro council. It is lined with turn of the 20th century architecture.

Just last week, the boro unveiled a low interest loan program for owner occupied home renovation.

Boro manager Raymond Lopez is confident that any slowdown in Pottstown's progress caused by the fire will be short lived, and could be a catalyst for something better.

"I spoke to all the businesses and all interested in having new facades put on something that's in the fabric of the historical district. They want to bring the buildings back to what it may have been in early 1900s," said Lopez.

There is a deeply rooted commitment to the success of the town that some business owners also call home.

"I know I'm here. I'm staying here. Whatever it takes rebuilding. Doesn't matter. One hundred percent, we're going to be here," said Petnick.