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Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Wilkes-Barre, PA Temple Catches Fire

The Masonic Temple in Wilkes-Barre. Pennsylvania caught fire on Tuesday, causing major damage to the historic building. Fire officials have not yet determined the cause.
A fire Tuesday afternoon damaged the Masonic Temple on North Franklin Street.
The cause is under investigation and a fire inspector was on scene around 2 p.m., roughly an hour after the alarm came in, said Wilkes-Barre Fire Chief Jay Delaney.
“It’s very preliminary. The fire started about an hour ago. We just got it under control,” Delaney said as smoke still wafted from the four-story brick building.
“We’re still having a tough time getting all the residual heat and smoke out of the building,” he said.
“It’s like a maze inside there with multiple, multiple rooms in there,” Delaney said. “A lot of the smoke and heat got trapped inside of the building, that’s why it took a long time to extinguish. But it’s under control. The fire’s out. We’re just mopping up right now.”
Three Masonic Lodges use the building, but it was unoccupied at the time of the fire. A meeting was scheduled for Tuesday night.
Delaney said there was power to the building and firefighters arrived to find heavy fire on the first floor. Black smoke billowed from the front door and windows.
Firefighters broke some windows, but overall they fought the fire in a manner to protect the historical value of the building. “We really tried to limit the damage to the building,” Delaney said.
Police closed North Franklin street between West Union and West Market streets during the fire. A steady stream of people walked by and some stopped to take photos.
A member of one of the lodges, who did not want to give his name, said the building is insured. He said there is a lobby on the first floor. Along the sides are five rooms and restrooms. A kitchen is located in the rear. There are meeting rooms on the second and third floors. The fourth floor is vacant.
“The building is so big we still had to do a search of the entire building, every single room of the building to make sure there was no one in there,” Delaney said.

1 comment:

  1. Follow up story in today's Times Leader:

    The ceiling lay on the floor inside the lobby of Masonic Temple Wednesday and soot coated the interior, a day after a smoky fire damaged the historic, four-story building.

    Contractors were busy making repairs, airing out the building and removing debris as Ralph Isely, secretary of the Masonic Association, coordinated the cleanup.

    “I’ve been through the building from top to bottom,” Isely said Wednesday.

    The lobby area sustained the most damage, he said. That’s where the investigation is focused to determine the cause and manner of the fire. Yellow tape marked off an area just inside the front entrance on North Franklin Street.

    “The fixtures, the lighting fixtures melted off the walls. The plaster ceiling is down. The plaster work on the ceiling and wall, that’s all down,” Isely said. The upper floors are coated in soot.

    “Everything has to be cleaned from top to bottom,” Isely said.

    At 88, he’s been a longtime member and 10 years younger than the building. Its cornerstone reads 1916 and the structure is part of the River Street Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places.

    The building is insured and sees regular use by three Masonic Lodges. A meeting had been scheduled for Tuesday night.

    Firefighters were cognizant of the building’s history, said Wilkes-Barre City Fire Department Chief Jay Delaney.

    “We really tried to limit damage to the building,” Delaney said.

    Still the interior was a mess and the cost to repair the damage was unknown Wednesday.

    The goal is to return the lobby to its original condition, Isely said, adding, “I don’t know how close we’re going to get to that” given the detail of the decorative plaster work.

    He estimated the building will be closed for three to four months.


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