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Howard Hanna looks to temporarily relocate after Sewickley fire

| Friday, June 13, 2014, 4:27 p.m.
Bobby Cherry | Sewickley Herald
Firefighters from Sewickley's Cochran Hose Co. attempt to put out a fire at 401 Broad St. from atop a ladder truck on Friday, June 13, 2014.
Matthew Frances
Crews respond to a fire at Thorn and Broad streets in Sewickley on Friday, June 13, 2014.
Bobby Cherry | Sewickley Herald
A fire was reported at the Howard Hanna office at Thorn and Broad streets at about 3:30 p.m. Friday, June 13, 2014.

Sewickley United Methodist Church's tower clock, built in the 1880s, stopped at 1:20 p.m. on Friday.

That's the moment Cochran Hose Co. officials say they believe lightning struck the iconic structure at the corner of Broad and Thorn streets before apparently jumping across the two streets to two other buildings, including the Sewickley Public Library.

It wasn't until about two hours later when Howard Hanna workers inside the Sewickley office at 401 Broad St. smelled smoke, checked for residents living upstairs and then evacuated.

A fire badly damaged the three-floor building, leaving tenants and Howard Hanna workers displaced. No injuries were reported in the blaze that brought fire departments from Moon, Emsworth, Leetsdale, Aleppo and beyond to assist Sewickley's crew.

Cochran Hose Co. Chief Jeff Neff said it could be at least a month before an official report is released. The Allegheny County Fire Marshals office did not return a request seeking comment.

Former residents of the building are living with friends and family, officials said.

Howard Hanna workers temporarily are working out of offices in Moon and the North Hills, real estate agent Linda Taylor said.

She was among about 15 workers who were inside the storefront office when the fire was reported.

“We were told to get out very quickly,” she said. “It was unbelievable.”

About 30 people work out of the Sewickley office — a location CEO Hoddy Hanna said is “very, very important” to the company.

He and about 10 Howard Hanna workers attended Monday night's Sewickley Council meeting asking elected leaders to help permit them temporary access to work out of the former BNY Mellon location at 501 Beaver St.

It's the same location Howard Hanna leaders wanted to relocate to about three years ago but were denied because of Sewickley's ban on first-floor office space within the business district.

“We're coming to you with hat in hand,” Hanna said, adding that it could take about six months for repair work to start on the real estate office's Broad Street location.

The space in BNY Mellon is suitable for temporary office space, Hanna said.

“This is temporary — very temporary,” he said.

Howard Hanna leaders said they intended to file paperwork this week with the borough's code enforcement officer asking for a continuation of the building's previous use for BNY Mellon.

Sewickley leaders said there is nothing they can do to help get the real estate offices into the location any faster.

“I hate to say it, I don't think we can,” solicitor Richard Tucker said. “This is a matter for the code enforcement officer and the zoning hearing board.”

Hanna said he intends to keep an office in Sewickley, adding that the company is celebrating its 40th year in the borough — having been in the Broad Street office for about the last 34 years.

“We love Sewickley,” he said.

Bobby Cherry is an associate editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-324-1408 or rcherry@tribweb.com.

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