MOUNT CARMEL - Three homes were severely damaged in a two-alarm blaze in the 400 block of East Center Street Tuesday evening.

Fire crews were called to the corner of East Center and North Locust streets at 6:22 p.m. by scanner reports of flames coming from the back of a home at 447 E. Center St.

"I came on the scene and did a quick run around the building to assess the situation," said Mount Carmel Borough Fire Chief James Reed. "When I got around back, flames and heavy smoke were coming out."

Reed said that once the blaze hit the attic, it moved horizontally into the attic of adjoining structures at both 445 and 449 E. Center St.

"At that point, we worked to vent the structure, to get the fire contained so we could put it out," the chief said.

While flames shot from the roof at 449 E. Center St., Mount Carmel firefighters worked to cut holes in the side of the home to keep the flames from spreading into the walls.

"We worked very aggressively getting this blaze out," Reed said. "You never want to play catchup with a fire like this."

Their efforts paid off.

The blaze was under control in less than an hour and was out by 8 p.m.

Reed said Tuesday night it was too early to determine an origin or cause. The second and third floors of 445 and 447 E. Center St., a three-story double home, suffered major damage; so did the second floor of the home at 449 E. Center St.

"If you look at the first floor of these buildings, there's just water damage, but heavy smoke and fire damage from there up," Reed said.

The fire chief could not provide any information on who lived in the homes, but borough police officer Kevin Katch said only one structure was occupied when the fire broke out, the occupants of the other homes were not home at the time.

Joining Mount Carmel in the firefighting effort were crews from Shamokin, Coal Township, Mount Carmel Township, Ashland and Kulpmont, along with Sunbury's Americus Hose, which brought a rehab trailer to help provide a warm place and coffee for firefighters.

Reed was thankful for the help.

"There are people that wonder why we need so many firefighters here, but this response and effort is tremendous," Reed said.