WASHINGTON, Pa. (KDKA) – Firefighters rushed to the scene of a fire at a homeless mission in Washington County early Tuesday morning.

The fire started just after midnight at the Washington City Mission on West Wheeling Street.

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When crews arrived, they noticed smoke coming from the building. When they searched, they realized the fire was coming from the kitchen.

“We had trouble gaining entry,” said Washington Fire Chief Linn Brookman. “There was a steel gate separating the kitchen from the rest of the building, and it took off from there.”

Chief Brookman says the fire was mostly contained to the kitchen and dining room area of the building. The area had water, smoke and heat damage, which extended all the way into the attic. Firefighters had to cut a hole in the roof of the building to ventilate the smoke and fire.

“Out of nowhere my friend ran upstairs and was like, ‘It’s a real fire!’ So,like, when I heard this the adrenaline pulsed in my mind and I knew it was like fight or flight,” said resident Anthony Zappone.

The president and CEO of the mission, Dean Gartland, had a chance to walk through the building and see the damage. He said the, “kitchen and dining area is completely destroyed.”

“Probably several hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage. Had to go into the attic, cut a hole in the roof. A lot of water and smoke damage too,” Gartland said.

The mission, which was founded in 1941, helps provide goods and services to the homeless and needy in Washington.

At least 66 men were displaced by the fire. The American Red Cross was called to the scene to assist the people with food, shelter and clothing. The mission is also working with other churches to find places for the men.

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The women and children helped by the mission are lodged in a different shelter, which wasn’t affected by the fire.

The State Police fire marshal is looking into the cause of the fire.

In the aftermath, the community dropped off food donations. Residents who rely on the mission believe kind hearts will help rebuild what was destroyed.

“God truly has his hand on this mission so I’m sure that the general public will see the need and they’ll step up and make every effort to help the people that run this mission get it back in running order,” Matthew Smith said.

Former resident James McBride felt obligated to contribute.

“I just felt like I had to give back,” he said. “You know the mission has been good to me. I was here for about a year. I felt sorry for everybody and everything that’s happened. I know this place does a lot of help for the community.”

Pastor Karen Stevenson from Trinity Church across town knows what the city mission does, too.

“I called up Giant Eagle,” she said. “I asked if they could do anything. They said yeah. I came over and they put in 10 loads of water bottles.”

The mission serves meals three times a day to around 450 people.

The cause does not appear suspicious. Some of the residents who are now in alternative housing could move back next week. But their biggest challenge is food and donations are still being accepted at the Mission on West Wheeling St. in Washington.

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