Philipsburg – A state police
fire marshal is investigating the cause of a
blaze that rushed through Philipsburg’s
Front Street at 6:14 am yesterday, resulting in
injuries to five fireman and loss of three
Store owners declined to give damage
estimates until inventories are completed but the
total estimate is likely to be hundreds of
thousands of dollars.
State police Cpl. Ray Siatkowski of
Hollidaysburg, who will be back on the fire scene
today, said it will be several days before he can
determine the cause of the fire, the second this
year to hit Philipsburg’s business district.
The first destroyed the Kephart hardware store
over six months ago.
Firemen from the Philipsburg Fire
Department’s Hope Fire Co. remained on the
scene last night to extinguish periodic
flare-ups. Paul Benes, the company’s Chief
Engineer, said he had a four man crew on duty.
Mr. Benes said the fire alarm came
in at 6:14 am from a lady who thought smoke was
coming from Second street to the rear of Front
Fireman injured in Sunday’s
fire, who were treated at Philipsburg State
General Hospital, included from Clearfield,
Samual Toto, who received a back injury and was
transferred by the Philipsburg Emergency Medical
Service to Clearfield Hospital, where he is
reported in fair condition today, and Rick Haney,
who was treated for cold exposure; from
Philipsburg, Mark Buck, treated for smoke
inhalation, and David Deliman, cold exposure and
smoke inhalation, and William Jarrett of Osceola
Mills, cold exposure.
Philipsburg and Clearfield
Fire Departments and Morris Township, Chester
Hill, Osceola Mills Columbia, Sandy Ridge
Mountaintop, B-J-W and Tyrone fire companies
fought the blaze, which gutted two connecting
buildings: Ziff’s Men’s Shop and Sam’s
Furniture Sleep Shop, at 212 and 214 Front Street
and did extensive water and smoke damage to a
third, Ziff’s Ladies Shop at 220 Front
Street. Miinor smoke damage was also reported at
McCrory’s Five and 10-Cent Store, which is
connected to Ziff’s Men’s Shop.
Earl Bollinger, manager of McCrory’s,
said late yesterday afternoon that water was
leaking through the ceiling of the store but
today he said the store will be open for business
Water from fire hoses and freezing
rain was running through what was left of Sam’s
four floor furniture store and saturated the
wall-to-wall carpeting in Ziff’s Ladies Shop
as firemen fought the blaze. It also ran down
debris strewn Front Street, freezing along the
way to make the street a stream of ice.
June Finberg, owner of Sam’s
Furniture Store, said she is not sure of the
amount of loss but said beds, bedding,
hide-a-beds, cedar chests and baby beds were
lost, as was Sam’s furniture stored in the
basement of one of the Ziff’s stores.
"The way the wind was blowing,
it looked like the whole block would go,”
she said as she looked out the window of Sam’s
main store, across from the skeleton of the
“Our stores are a total
loss,” Saul Ziff, operator of the men’s
store, said, adding that the stores had double
their usual inventory because of the coming
“We received the maximum
damage without a lot of fire in the ladies store,”
he said, referring to the smoke and water that
soaked the interior and the contents not removed
by firemen and others as the fire spread from Sam’s
to the ladies shop. He said the Ziff family has
operated stores in Philipsburg since 1914.
Mr. Ziff’s brother Sidney, who
operated the ladies shop, said he did not know if
either shop will reopen.
The Ziff’s stores and Sam’s
did have insurance coverage but it is not known
if all the contents were covered.
Philipsburg Fire Chief Robert
Smith said he thinks the fire started in the rear
of Ziff’s Men Shop, engulfed with flames
that rushed into the bedding store on its left
and towards the sides of McCrory’s on its
right until firemen contained its progress.
The fire had entered the furniture
store and was rushing through the roof when
Clearfield Fire Company No. 1 arrived on the
scene with its ladder truck.
Clearfield County Control said the
company got a call for help at 6:30 am and was on
the scene in Philipsburg at 6:50.
The aerial ladder operation gushed
water down onto the flames, pushing them back as
firemen on the ground continued to aim hoses into
the blazing store. The Tyrone Company rushed
through town shortly after, “taking the
shingles off my house in its haste,”
Philipsburg Public Works Director Don Enck said.
The ladder truck was stationed to the rear of the
Commenting on the fire and the
Philipsburg Fire Department’s lack of a
ladder truck, former Philipsburg Borough
Councilman Donald Swires Jr. said “This is
the second time in a few months that Clearfield’s
ladder truck has helped us, the other time with
Kephart’s Hardware Store.”
Mr. Swires and the firemen on the
scene said they think its time Philipsburg has a
Settelen, manager of Keystone Water Company, said
customers had turbidity in their water early
yesterday and low water pressure, with some
customers reporting loss of water because of the
tremendous pull of fire hoses drawing water.