ETNA (KDKA) — The Etna community remains in shock one day after a devastating fire ripped through a large self-storage warehouse, destroying valuable, and in many cases, irreplaceable personal possessions.
KDKA talked to people who say the fire inside the warehouse impacted not only the more than 200 vehicles and the more than a dozen businesses inside, but also the people who live around the area. They say they were without power for hours.
On Thursday morning, drivers were seen taking it slow on Butler Street in Etna so they could check out the damage. People were also stopping and taking pictures.
New photos from the Undercliff Volunteer Fire Department show the devastation from the inside.
Many who either own a vehicle stored inside or work in the warehouse were back out at the facility today wondering if their valuables are now gone.
“I can see the smoke getting thicker and thicker,” said Shawn Miller, of Labratz Science, Inc.
Miller was in his office in the warehouse when the fire started around 2 p.m. Wednesday. He’s part of a company that travels to different schools for science programs.
He tells us he has animals inside and is worried about them.
“Couple corn snakes, couple tortoises, bearded dragons, so a lot of different reptiles that are my main concern right now,” said Miller.
Steve Mitnick, president of the storage facility, says he had no idea animals were being kept in the warehouse.
“I had no idea that animals had been in there, but you know, when somebody has their own space, it’s very difficult to police and know exactly what’s going in or out, but I was not aware of any animals that would have been placed there. And that is certainly, unquestionably a prohibited use within our agreement,” he said.
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Nichole Farine owns the hair salon right across the street from STORExpress and had a front row seat until she and her clients were evacuated.
“When we left, the street was covered, engulfed in black smoke. My lungs and my throat are even sore today. Yeah, it was scary. It was the biggest fire I’ve ever seen,” she said.
Watch Lindsay Ward’s report —
Police blocked off the one side of Butler Street because of the damage on the outside of the building and the debris scattered along the sidewalk.
According to the Allegheny County Department of Emergency Services, the fire started on the first floor of the building. A man was working on a motorcycle when it caught fire.
They say though they don’t have an exact number yet, they expect the loss to be in the millions.
A GoFundMe page has been started for the artists and businesses who lost everything. According to the page, the proceeds will be delivered to the Etna Economic Development Corporation for distribution.
Three firefighters were hurt and taken to the hospital for burns and a shortness of breath. All have since been released.
Right now, officials are looking into the problems with the sprinkler system and the fire alarm system.
“I’m just glad everyone got out. That’s the main thing when you look at it. It could’ve probably been worse than what it was,” Miller said.
“We certainly know that there was a sprinkler system there and why or for what reason it did not activate, I don’t know, and I’m looking forward to figuring out what happened there. But certainly there was one that was installed,” Mitnick said.
Firefighters and the fire marshal were back at the storage facility Thursday afternoon after smoke was seen coming out of the building. The Etna fire chief says the fire had rekindled, but they put foam down to extinguish the flames.
The fire is under investigation.