BELLEFONTE - Another devastating fire struck Bellefonte Historic Downtown early Sunday morning, displacing 26 people.
Though none of the residents were injured, four firemen fighting the blaze were, according to Bellefonte Fire Chief Tim Schreffler. None of the injuries are believed to be severe.
The Hotel Do De was destroyed during the blaxe that started around 12:30 a.m. Sunday. The Garman Opera House, adjacent to the Do De hotel, and housed the 26 residents, also suffered severe damage.
Photos courtesy of Russell Shuey
The destruction of the fire early Sunday in historic downtown Bellefonte is seen from a ladder truck bucket.
At 8:30 a.m. Sunday, the Undine and the Bellefonte fire companies were still on site.
During the night, while the fire was raging, the following companies also assisted, according to Bellefonte Fire Chief Tim Schreffler: State College, Pleasant Gap, Milesburg, Walker Township, Center Hall, Boalsburg and Howard. The Red Cross and the Salvation Army were present to help the 26 people the fire displaced.
"The cause of the fire has not been determined and is being investigated by the state Department of the Pennsylvania Fire Marshal," said Borough Manager Ralph Stewart. "The Hotel Do De has been destroyed and does not appear to be repairable. The Garman is questionable to whether is can be restored and saved or not.
"The borough will met with the owners and insurance companies in the next couple of days to determine if the properties can be saved and in the case of the Do De how to go about taking it down and a way to put infill on the property as soon as possible."
Stewart said when the Hotel Do De is eventually razed it will not affect the nearby Courthouse Annex because it has its own wall and is not connected. However, he added, the Do De is sandwiched in between the Annex and the Garman House and it could be tricky to raze the building.
"The fire departments did an outstanding job fighting the fire," he said.
Schreffler said when his firemen arrived at around 12:30 a.m. Sunday, the Do De Tavern its upstairs had already been evacuated.
"The fire had been noticed by a patron and an employee," he said. "My understanding is the evacuation was done in an orderly fashion. There were 26 people living in the Do De and none of the residents or those in the tavern were injured.
"There were four injuries to firemen, three of them are minor and the fourth is unknown at this time," he continued. "The firefighters had to evacuate the buildings three times during the fire because the buildings became unsafe. The firefighters went above and beyond what is ever expected of them and did an outstanding job on this fire."
Schreffler said Cherry Lane will be closed to both pedestrian and vehicle traffic until the back of the building is stabilized.
"High Street will be closed longer do the unstable condition of the front of the building," he said.
Centre County Commissioner Steve Dershem thanked the firefighters for their efforts in helping to save the county-owned Courthouse Annex from severe fire damage.
"As a long-time Bellefonte resident, it is sad to see the landscape changing in downtown Bellefonte," he said. "The Hotel Do De was an anchor building in the downtown landscape and landmarks are hard to replace. I am thankful everyone was able to get out of the building."
Hotel owner John Dann had completed the necessary items for fire safety insections for commercial buildings, said Russell Shuey, borough code enforcer officer.
"He has had an inspection in the last year and at that time he had interconnected fire alarms and they were all working," Shuey said. "He had installed fire doors for the fire escape and had all the exit and emergency exit lights in place and working."
Sadness gripped the crowd of people who looked as the fire company worked on cleaning up and stabalizing the structure Sunday morning, as another Bellefonte historic building was lost to fire.
In the last eight years, the borough has had five major fires in the Historic District, with two in the residential area.
One of those buildings has been restored and the second is under renovations.
However, the downtown area has now lost at least three anchor buildings. The Bush House, was the first to go. The Cadillac Building, while still standing, has only had minimal repairs done, and now the Do De has been destroyed.
The Garman has also had severe damage in Sunday morning's fire and should be considered the fourth downtown building damaged.
The Hotel Do De was built in 1867 and was rebuilt in 1887. It was built by Daniel Garman and was the Garman House not to be confused by the Garman Opera House.
The Garman Opera House, which was destroyed in Sunday's fire, was built in 1890.