MOUNT CARMEL - Flames gutted the former Lapinski Lumber Company building early Sunday morning, while its owner watched firefighters extinguished the remnants of a business he started more than 65 years ago.

"It's the luck of the Polish," owner Robert Lapinski said while he watched firefighters check the charred building that had stood for more than 50 years.

"When I built that section in 1961, I thought it was going to last forever; well, not now," he said.

Lapinski does not have insurance on the building, but said nothing of real value was lost. The heaviest damage happened in the center of the building, an area he used for office space, and a showroom when the business was operational.

"I was mostly using the place for storage now," Lapinski said. "I'm just glad no one was hurt fighting it."

Spread quickly

Mount Carmel Borough Fire Chief Jim Reed was the first to arrive at the 12:35 a.m. fire scene at 236 W. Seventh St. because he lives just around the corner on Poplar Street.

"When I got on scene, the flames were starting to come out of the eaves," Reed said. "It's frustrating to watch since I was the only one here, and it was going pretty good," Reed said.

The blaze quickly spread to the second floor, Reed said, because there were no partitions in the center section. Reed and assistant chief Jack Williams put down master streams on either side of the building, then began an interior fighting operation.

"The master streams really worked to knock down the fire, and those that went inside finished the job," Reed said.

Firefighters had it under control in 30 to 45 minutes, Reed said, and gave credit to all the firefighters for their quick response.

"I really have to thank all of the out-of-town units that came out to help us," Reed said.

One firefighter was treated at the scene for heat exhaustion.

Units from Ashland, Mount Carmel Township, Coal Township, Kulpmont, Strong, Shamokin and Frackville joined the Mount Carmel teams in knocking down the blaze, and all units were placed back in service at 3:36 a.m.

Business opened in 1948

According to Lapinski, the company started in 1948 and the building which caught fire Sunday was built in 1961. Lapinski Lumber ceased operations in 2002, he said. The building did have a power supply, which PPL removed Sunday morning.

Reed could not give a cause at the scene, but said a fire marshal would be coming in this morning to investigate.