A cloud of black smoke billowed Sunday morning from the 500 block of Merchant Street as firefighters worked to battle a blaze at two unoccupied businesses--the second downtown fire in less than a week.
Ambridge Fire Chief David Drewnowski said the unidentified man suffered smoke inhalation and was taken to Heritage Valley Sewickley hospital. Firefighters had to use two ladders to rescue the man.
Drewnowski said the fire appeared to have started next door on the second floor of Fashions by Shelby Lynn in the middle of the building.
Flames then spread to the apartment and vacant business next door, formerly a 24-hour tanning salon.
Drewnowski said the two buildings did not have a firewall between them, only a couple of doorways and some windows.
Both businesses were gutted and a third, formerly Anderson's Candies, endured smoke and water damage.
Carol Korn, who owns Shelby Lynn at 535 Merchant, said she recently did renovations inside her building, which also had some inventory in there.
“I was getting ready to sell it,” said Korn, who is insured.
Drewnowski said the two buildings are a total loss. Both were affected two years ago when a Sept. 15, 2012 fire sparked next door at the old Charles Men’s Store at 541 Merchant St.
Korn said her business was newly rewired from the 2012 fire. After receiving dozens of calls in church on Sunday, she stood across the street watching in disbelief.
“The whole town is burning,” she said.
Al Sacco said he feared the fire would spread to his nearby vacant building, where the only separation was an empty lot where the Charles Men’s Store once stood.
“I’m worried about my business,” Sacco said.
Like many others, Ambridge residents Rich Sulkowski and his wife Rachel gathered with their children, Hunter and Katie, curious about all the activity happening near their home.
Rich Sulkowski of Melrose Avenue said he happened to walk outside and saw a plume of smoke.
“I could just smell it faintly. I looked and could see the smoke. Then I heard the fire trucks come by,” he said.
Several residents expressed suspicions about the fire, which comes less than a week after another fire destroyed the historic Rooks Cantina 505 building on Fourth Street.
“I’m concerned about an arsonist in Ambridge,” said Melanie Price of Eighth Street, who stood in the crowd snapping pictures of the fire.
No official word has been given on the cause of the fire. Drewnowski said the state police fire marshal is investigating.
Ambridge fire department remained on scene Sunday evening. Firefighters were assisted by Crescent, Conway, Harmony, Baden, Fair Oaks, and Rochester Township departments.
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