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Pottsville News

Fire, Explosions Destroy Cable TV Business in Pottsville

Amazingly, no injuries reported; 7 displaced from homes

Fire and subsequent explosions destroyed the headquarters of a cable television provider in Pottsville on Thursday evening.

Calls went out just before 7 p.m. Thursday for a fire at Wire Tele-View Corp. at 603 E. Market St. in the city.

As firefighters were working to douse the flames engulfing the cable company’s building – which included a billing and customer service office as well as a one-bay garage – what’s believed to be multiple explosions scattered firefighters from the building.

Firefighters in Pottsville work from the air and ground to douse flames at the headquarters of Wire Tele-View Corp., a cable TV and Internet Service Provider. Fire and several explosions completely obliterated the company’s building on E. Market St. in Pottsville. (Coal Region Canary photos)

The front of the business’s building was forced out onto the street, collapsing onto several vehicles parked in front of it.

“We had multiple explosions but we’re not sure,” Dave Leibel, Pottsville’s First Assistant Fire Chief, told The Canary late Thursday night as the scene was being cleared. The incident drew a response from firefighters across Schuylkill County.

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“It might have been vehicles inside,” Leibel theorized as to the source of the explosions, suggesting that tires may have blown out from the intense heat caused by the flames. “I think there was at least two vehicles in there, plus a compressor. It could have been the tires because it was really hot.”

No Injuries is a Miracle

Amazingly, no firefighters or people nearby were injured by the fire or explosion.

Leibel believes it’s a miracle no one was injured from the explosions. He said a portion of the structure to the rear had already collapsed by the time firefighters arrived at the scene.

“That wall just came crashing down. That front just really came down,” Leibel said.

Stopping the Fire Fight Midstream

Compounding the dangerous situation was a gas leak right in front of the burning building. Even though flames were mostly extinguished, a large flame burned for more than 3 hours until a crew from UGI Utilities was able to access a valve to shut off the gas.

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When responders from UGI arrived at the scene, they ordered everyone, including firefighters, to get more than 300 feet away from the site of the gas leak.

In his 47 years of service with Pottsville Fire Dept., Leibel said he couldn’t remember a time when firefighters were forced to pause their activity as they did Thursday night.

A crew from UGI Utilities works around a hole they had to dig to access two underground gas valves. A gas leak caused a persistent flame to burn for more than three hours and it forced firefighters to stand back from the scene.

“There was six valves to shut off,” Leibel said. “If they would have shut it off, they would have shut the whole East Side off. There was definitely gas in the building and that’s why you saw it shooting up until they shut it off.”

Rather than shutting down gas service to a large portion of Pottsville, it was decided to shut off two of the valves underground. Leibel said a hole had to be dug in the street to access those two valves and a clamp was applied, as well, to stop the gas leak.

That happened close to 10:30 p.m. Thursday.

By that time, most of the fire had been extinguished but firefighters had to attack the scene after the gas leak was stopped to complete overhaul of the burning building to douse any smoldering that remained.

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One Other Home Severely Damaged, Three Others Sustain Smoke Damage

In addition to the completely destroyed Wire Tele-View building, the home next door at 605 E. Market St. sustained major damage. The homes at 607, 609, and 611 E. Market St. sustained smoke damage, Leibel confirmed.

Patty Daley, a Disaster Responder with American Red Cross-Pennsylvania Rivers Chapter, said a total of seven people among three homes were displaced from their homes on account of Thursday evening’s incident.

The Red Cross initially provides those adversely affected by incidents like Thursday’s in Pottsville a debit card that can be used for things like housing, food, and clothing.

A few days later, a caseworker will contact those individuals to set up a plan to help them recover and move forward.

Nearly nothing of the Wire Tele-View building on Pottsville’s East Side remains following Thursday’s fire and explosions.

Firefighters Commended for Their Response

Leibel praised the response of his fellow firefighters and other first responders to Thursday’s fire

“I think everybody did well, in my opinion. We do what we have to do. No lives were lost. This was definitely a dangerous situation,” he said.

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Investigation Continues Friday

A State Police Fire Marshal was at the scene Thursday night but plans to return Friday morning to assess the damage and determine a possible cause of the fire and explosion at the Wire Tele-View headquarters.

UPDATED STORY: The article above is an update on the original post based on new, confirmed information gathered at the scene.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. amos kutz

    May 24, 2024 at 7:31 am

    Thank God, no loss of life. This could have went into a catastrophic disaster. Hats off to first responders and gas crew

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