AMBRIDGE (KDKA) — Residents of a business and apartment building in Beaver County were forced to flee early Friday morning when flames ripped through the building.

The incredible blaze began around 5 a.m. in the bottom-floor clothing shop, smoke then filling the 10 apartments on the top two floors in the three-story building located in the 500-block of Merchant Street.

“This is one of the biggest [fires] Ambridge has had,” said Assistant Chief Rob Gottschalk, of the Ambridge Fire Department.

At one point, the fire was so large nearly a dozen fire companies were called to contain it.

KDKA’s Ross Guidotti reports:

“As I opened up the apartment door, the smoke just started barreling in the apartment,” said Michael Fike, a resident. “I had to actually shut the apartment door so we could get our breath, and then open it again and just go for it.”

Fike, his fiancée and his son were on the top floor, and all literally fell down the steps in a desperate dash for the outside to fresh air.

KDKA’s Harold Hayes Reports:

“I had my hand on the hand rail following them down the steps; one hand dragging my fiancée down the steps,” said Fike. “I didn’t think we were going to make it out at all. I collapsed on the sidewalk as soon as I walked out the front door.”

“We barely made it out. I had to cover my eyes and everything,” added Steven Fike, Michael’s son.

KDKA’s Harold Hayes Reports:

With all residents were accounted for, the battle to kill the growing fire was on.

“Most of the building we have collapsed from the roof down into the second floors,” said Assistant Chief Gottschalk. “We still have heavy fire in the back.”

With that, the order was given to get out. The building was a lost cause and the effort to save the surrounding structures was on.

“We’re trying our best to stay on top of it. We thought we’d have it out, and it would rekindle. Then, it went up into the second floor,” said Assistant Chief Gottschalk. “Right now, our main concern is the front wall. We’re trying to keep it from coming down on the Merchant Street side.

And as bad as it is and with all the damage done, the flames claimed only a building.

“This could have been a lot worse than what it is right now,” added Assistant Chief Gottschalk.

Uncut Video:

The building is a total loss. The displaced residents are being assisted by the Red Cross.

Fike’s fiancée was taken to Sewickley Valley hospital for treatment of minor smoke inhalation, but she is going to be okay.

Also, two firefighters reportedly fell through a stairwell while battling the fire, but they were able to get out of the building and didn’t suffer any major injuries.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

More Ambridge News
More Beaver County News

Watch & Listen LIVE