Relief effort underway to help North Coventry fire victims

NORTH COVENTRY TWP., Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- The only thing left of what was once the Ashwood Apartment Building is the shell, A shell investigators had to gingerly try to peak thru as they try to pin down a cause.

With a major relief effort underway to help the victims of this devastation, We got a first-hand account of the challenges of battling this fire.

"It was one of the worse fires we had in the area for a long time," said Deputy NorCo Fire Chief Chuck Hipple.

Hipple says early on they faced serious water pressure problems from a fire hydrant and they had to pivot very quickly.

"You go with Plan A, Plan A don't work, you go with Plan B, just gotta keep trying to attack the fire." said the Deputy Chief.

They learned there was a pretty good-sized pond about 200 yards behind the Apartment building.

"We put a pumper down there, run a hose line, five-inch hose line all the way thru into another truck and then they bumped into our aerial pieces," said Hipple.

Over 200 Fire Fighters from Chester, Berks, Delaware and Montgomery Counties battled the massive inferno. But there was something else that was working against them.

The building- that dates back to the 1950's-had no firewalls.

"It was a fire that once it got up on the roof, it blew right thru, just ran the roofline, there was nothing to stop it, there was no firewall system to stop it," said Hipple.

They pumped over 400,000 gallons of water into the fire. But, by the time it was all over, 125 people had been displaced.

"Now, it's setting in that everything's gone. I'm 60-years-old, I'll never be able to get it all back," said fire victim David Connelly.

"I was the keeper of my family's pictures early 1900's, they're gone," said Wendy Connelly, another victim.

With the cause of the fire still under investigation, the good news is that when tragedy strikes in North Coventry and neighboring communities, others step up to plate without even being asked.

"We basically have a Pop Up Walmart that's up here inside this fire station," said volunteer organizer Josh Park from the Branch Life Church.

A steady flow of people, organizations and businesses dropped off tons of items for the 45 families left homeless.

So many items, they finally had to ask people to stop.

"It's like putting your hand on a waterfall, it's just not stopping," said Park.

A true testament to the people of this area.

"Sometimes we get a bad rap, but whenever this happens, you see the true colours of who we are and we love our neighbors," said Park.

With the Red Cross offering temporary housing, officials are asking people to make monetary donations instead to help people long term.

They are asking people to go to NETZER.Org, that's backed by the township and make donations that 100 percent will go to the victims.
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