Fire in Uniontown high-rise injures several seniors
By Cindy Ekas
Published: Thursday, March 21, 2013, 9:06 p.m.
“God didn't want me. I guess it wasn't my time to go,” said Donna Copeland just moments after she walked down 10 flights of stairs to safety shortly after 7 p.m. Thursday when fire broke out in the Marshall Manor Apartment building on East Main Street in Uniontown.
The 66-year-old woman, who has asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, collapsed on a sofa in the community room where firefighters gave her oxygen to help her breathe. Tears were streaming down her face as she coughed and tightly clutched a smoke-stained tissue.
“This is what I was breathing in,” Copeland told her daughter Gloria Peggues, who arrived to make sure her mother was safe. “I didn't have time to get my cane or my walker. This is too much. I got to move.”
Uniontown fire Chief Chuck Coldren confirmed that residents and firefighters who suffered smoke inhalation and injuries were rushed to Uniontown Hospital.
“We have injuries, but I have no idea how many people were injured and how bad their injuries are,” said Coldren as firefighters battled the blaze that broke out in an apartment on the building's seventh floor.
Coldren said the cause of the fire has not been determined.
Firefighters ran through the building to make sure that about 100 residents evacuated their apartments and were safely moved to the community room located on the building's lowest level.
The Fayette County Housing Authority, owner of the apartment complex, sent representatives to the building to make sure all of the residents had made it to safety.
After she was counted by housing authority representatives, Copeland left with her daughter.
“She is going to stay with us until she finds another place to live,” her daughter said.
Some of the residents said they heard that the unidentified woman who lived in the burning apartment fell asleep. When she awoke, she saw smoke pouring out of her bathroom.
“She didn't know what happened. She just started screaming,” LouAnn Newbrauger said.
John Hodge, the building's tenant advocate, said he was concerned about the third floor where many people with disabilities live.
“I hope the firefighters evacuated everyone from the third floor,” said Hodge, indicating that all of the building's residents are at least 50 years old and some of them have various disabilities.
Residents expressed concerns to firefighters about their pets because they did not have time to get them when they fled to safety. Other residents held their dogs and cats that were visibly frightened by the chaos and the flames and smoke.
South Union Township and Hopwood volunteer firefighters assisted Uniontown firefighters at the scene.
Cindy Ekas is a freelance writer.
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