Some Conshohocken fire victims return

CONSHOHOCKEN, Pa. - August 17, 2008

There was a flurry of emotions for residents of buildings 2 and 3 Sunday morning: They were happy and relieved to be home, but their thoughts were with their neighbors who no longer have one.

For four nights Eric Smith, his wife and their three children have been cooped up in a local Hampton Inn. "It's been scary for them," Smith told Action News.

Sunday, the Smiths were allowed to go back to their home, but not for long. Although the Smiths' apartment was untouched by the fire, the air quality in the complex was not.

"My children have asthma. Even if I wanted to stay, I couldn't," Smith told Action News' Erin O'Hearn who was on the scene Sunday morning.

Phil Meitner is wondering if he'll stay too. The window of his corner apartment looks directly out at a building virtually gutted by Wednesday's inferno. In the apartments and the hallways, the stench of the blaze lingered and the doors were busted, a reminder of fire fighters who rushed in to evacuate the buildings.

The owners of the apartments has given residents the option of moving out within 30 days without penalty.

Fire investigators have told Action News that acetylene torches being used by workmen sparked the 8-alarm fire in Conshohocken. The workmen were removing decorative window balconies from an apartment building that was still under construction and the flames quickly spread to two occupied buildings next door.

Residents of buildings 1 and 4 will learn what they have left on Monday.

Nicole Anetunucci, a young mother, spent Friday afternoon outside her home begging anyone who'd listen if they'd help her find her missing cat and treasured memories of her father. "I have letters in there. My father passed away, I have letters he wrote me when he was sick and they are all in there, I want those and I want that cat; that's all I want," Nicole said.

Finally, a man who had been working at the scene decided to help. He gingerly navigated the largely demolished unit. After about an hour, Nicole's husband arrived with a bag. Nicole did recover a box of photos and letters from her father. "I would love to get his name because nobody would do anything, this is the first guy to do anything, so amazing, amazing, amazing heart," Nicole said.

There have been rumors that the apartments have been looted. The management company and police say that's not true and a security team is in place to protect the property.

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