HOMESTEAD (KDKA) – Friday’s massive fire in Homestead will likely have a devastating impact on the business district, which was trying to bounce back.

Five businesses and five buildings were badly damaged in the blaze – some beyond repair.

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KDKA’s Amy Wadas Reports:

Dozens of firefighters were called to the fire and had to battle many obstacles.

Also at the scene was Homestead Mayor Betty Esper.

Their main concern was the safety and any people affected by the fire, but another concern was watching a critical block of businesses burn.

“It’s devastated our avenue that we’ve been trying to build up with new businesses,” Esper said. “This doesn’t help, but, you know, buildings are buildings, lives are our main concern.”

One building collapsed and the owner showed up at the scene when he was called by one of his tenants.

That tenant had just opened a tax business about a week ago.

“You put your heart and soul into a lot of this,” said building owner Walt Viola. “So in this case we really did, we got this building up and running because it had virtually – very little when we took it.”

Owners say they were working hard to revitalize the business district, so were borough officials.

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“They’ve been very strict for any owners on 8th Avenue to make sure they’re up to code, you know, all the permits, filings to make sure everything is going through a justification process,” Viola said.

Shirley Anderson is the owner of one of the brick building’s that are still standing. She also owns the business Beauty Mark Inc. that’s located on the first floor. She also owns six apartment buildings that are upstairs. She’s been in business for 59 years.

“It takes a lot of work. A lot of buildings tenants don’t take care of them. You take care of yours and they don’t take care of theirs and this is what happens,” Anderson said.

Anderson says the fire didn’t start in her building. She says it started in one of the buildings nearby then spread to hers.

KDKA’s Sarah Arbogast Reports:

Officials say they’ll have to determine which buildings are still salvageable.

The building where Beauty Mark Inc. and a nail salon are located will remain standing for now.

Emergency management officials are talking to the state and other agencies to get financial help for the businesses that were damaged.

Most of Downtown Homestead is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

There is also still a safety concerns that some buildings could come down, so that stretch of 8th Avenue could likely remain closed through the evening rush hour.

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