MOUNT CARMEL - Wednesday morning's accidental fire in the 200 block of East Second Street that destroyed three homes, damaged three others and left 10 people homeless started near a coal stove on the first floor of one of the residences.

After inspecting the fire-ravaged buildings for more than three hours Thursday, fire officials determined that the 8:11 a.m. blaze began on the first floor of 244 E. Second St. and quickly spread to an adjoining dwelling at 242 E. Second St. and other properties.

Mount Carmel Fire Chief Jack Williams Jr. said a flue pipe attached to a coal stove was too close to a wall, causing heat to build up and spread through a fire board into the wall. Williams said the heat near the stove built up over time, drying the wood studs out, before causing a fire to ignite inside the wall.

"The fire started in the middle room wall at 244 E. Second St. that adjoins 242 E. Second St., and then spread vertically up a wall into the attic in the balloon-framed homes," Williams said.

The chief, who inspected the scene Thursday with Cpl. Nicholas Loffredo, a state police fire marshal from Montoursville, Mount Carmel Code Enforcement Officer Robin Williams and Mount Carmel Township Fire Marshal and Police Chief Brian Hollenbush, said the homes at 244, 242 and 246 E. Second St. were destroyed. Properties at 248, 250 and 236 E. Second St., sustained minor smoke and water damage and are livable, he said.

Williams estimated overall damage, including property and contents, at 242 E. Second St. to be $215,000. He said damage at 244 E. Second St. totaled $100,000. The fire chief said damage estimates for the four other properties are not available.

Families affected

Residents of 244 E. Second St. left homeless were Mark Jackson, 43, his wife, Jessica Jackson, 26, and her son, Tyler Day, 7, who are not insured. The home is owned by Vernon R. Horsfield and Maryann E. Horsfield, of 333 S. Chestnut St., Mount Carmel.

Also left homeless were Marty Klaus, of 242 E. Second St.; Bradley P. Zimmerman, 34, and his 31-year-old fiance, Elizabeth Park, of 246 E. Second St.; Adam Auman, 30, and his fiance, Colleen May, 31, of 248 E. Second St.; Lillian Mae Mirarchi, of 250 E. Second St., and Diane Fitzpatrick, of 236 E. Second St.

Klaus, whose residence is owned by Martha J. Klaus, is living with relatives.

The Jacksons and Day, along with Zimmerman and Parks, reportedly have been provided shelter by the American Red Cross at Glosser's Motor Inn in Paxinos.

Auman, May, Mirarchi and Fitzpatrick stayed with relatives at least overnight. Williams said he expected Mirarchi and Fitzpatrick to return to their homes by today.

Williams said Auman and May were renting the property at 248 E. Second St. from JNJ Investment Properties, Allentown, but were in the process of moving to Coal Township.

Zimmerman owns the property where he and his fiance were living, while Mirarchi and Fitzpatrick also own their own homes.

With the exception of 244 E. Second St., Williams said all the other occupants and property owners are insured.

The fire chief praised the efforts of firefighters in containing the damage to six properties in the neighborhood.

"I want to thank everyone for their quick response and assistance," he said. "The mutual aid companies were very much appreciated. They really helped us out with manpower, which we needed because of the time of day the fire broke out."

Firefighters from at least 10 municipalities - from Sunbury to Frackville - battled the blaze for more than two hours in near freezing temperatures. Crews had the flames under control at 10:11 a.m. The scene was cleared shortly after 2 p.m.