SHAMOKIN - A fire struck a city block early Thursday morning for the third time in less than five months.

The fire occurred around 4:15 a.m. at 725 N. Shamokin St., a vacant three-story brick apartment building without electricity that stands on the southeast corner of Shamokin and Sunbury streets. Shamokin Patrolman and fire investigator Raymond Siko II described it as suspicious.

Shannon Taylor, an employee of Sons of Italy a block from the fire scene, spotted smoke coming from the front of the building while she was locking up the business. She told authorities she made eye-contact with a young male and two females standing near the corner of the burning building before they were seen "scrambling away."

Firefighters entered the building through a front door and located burning debris in a room in the front of the first floor. One hose line was used to extinguish the fire. The speedy work of firefighters kept damage contained to the room.

Siko said he would like to speak to the three individuals who were seen by Taylor.

"As of now, we don't know if the people are related to the fire," Siko said Thursday afternoon. "We removed evidence from the (building) this morning and will continue to investigate."

Shamokin Code Enforcement Officer Rick Bozza condemned the building Thursday morning because of fire damage and a lack of running water or electricity. Bozza was attempting to reach the owner, Shawn Parnell, of Girardville, Thursday afternoon.

Third fire

The building is adjacent to 721-723 and 717-719 N. Shamokin St., which were damaged when fire broke out 10 p.m. Sept. 5. Eight days later, a second fire broke out in the rear of 717 N. Shamokin St., which eventually partially collapsed from damage.

Siko said a cause for both fires is undetermined and remains under a "very" active investigation.

Shamokin's Director of Public Safety, R. Craig Rhoades had previously said Larry Burda, owner of 717 N. Shamokin St., was previously given 60 days to tear down the property or bring it up to code.

Burda said at Tuesday's city council meeting that he was "unhappy with the situation" at the fire-damaged properties and that he would be contacting "counsel," though he elaborated no further on what he would be doing with the properties.

The statement came after Councilman William Milbrand questioned Burda about the status of the building.

Burda had no comment about the situation when contacted Thursday.