Illegal fireworks are to blame for the three-alarm conflagration that ripped through Consolidated Scrap Resources on the Fourth of July, demolishing two buildings and causing a minor injury to one Lebanon City firefighter.
Rumors that fireworks had sparked the blaze have been circulating in the area since the massive fire destroyed the city recycling center in the 300 block of North 14th Street.
Firefighters were on the scene for nearly 70 hours before the fire was fully extinguished.
Lebanon city police officially listed fireworks as the cause of the fire in a statement July 20.
“Eye witness and video evidence reflects the reckless use of illegal fireworks on Van Buren Street caused the fire to ignite and quickly spread throughout the business,” police said in the release.
No one has been charged, and no suspect has been identified in the incident.
Lebanon City Police Chief Todd Breiner said Wednesday morning that the charges against the culprit who started the fire could vary “depending on what the person(s) had to say during an interview.”
“Police will continue to investigate and exhaust all leads,” the chief noted in the press release, adding that “anyone with information regarding this fire is asked to call the Lebanon City Police Department” at 717-274-2054.
Even before the cause was determined, Lebanon Fire Commissioner Duane Trautman angrily criticized Pennsylvania lawmakers for relaxing legislation in 2017 that kept fireworks out of the hands of amateurs, as well as unknown city residents who shot fireworks over the heads of firefighters as they tried to knock down the fire.
Trautman said at the time that the “indiscriminate, inconsiderate and really reckless use of fireworks in Lebanon and elsewhere [is] disgusting” and called on the state Legislature to repeal the law.
Fireworks that were exploding over the scene of the fire was “unnerving” for firefighters who were dealing with excessive heat, tenacious flames and explosions from within the building as it burned.
Fire spotted by passersby
The fire was spotted by a passing fire chief and police officer at around 10:30 p.m. Sunday, July 4. At around midnight, a propane tank exploding, sending debris flying at least three blocks away and igniting the roof of a nearby home.
About 16 fire companies responded to the scene.
“All evidence collected to date, indicates the fire originated at the eastern end of the building on the 300 block of N. Van Buren Street,” the police said in the statement.
The blaze was listed as under control that Monday evening, about 20 hours after firefighters arrived to the scene, but fire crews remained on hand much longer to control small fires and deal with hot spots that remained a danger.
Two houses across the street from Consolidated Scrap sustained some heat damage from the fire, and a firefighter suffered second-degree burns from touching a fire truck that got too hot from its proximity to the fire.
The Lebanon County Department of Emergency Services reported that firefighters had been called to the 14th Street address several times this year. Reports said the July 4 incident was the area’s biggest fire in many years.
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