Building owner Edward J. Aiello said Tuesday night that cleanup will begin today at the site of the fire that engulfed the 3-story brick building at 205 Main St. in downtown Ridgway.
"We've had opinions from the fire department and the police but we need to bring in a structural engineer to see if the building can be saved," Aiello said. "We're not going to wait around long on this."
Pa. State Police officials gave Aiello permission Tuesday to begin to clean up the site both inside and out.
While cleanup efforts are underway, Aiello said he can take solace in the fact that despite one death, a complete fire safety overhaul was performed three years ago, making the building safer.
"We had emergency lighting in the hallways and the fire escape had been redone," Aiello said. "We spent $40,000 on the equipment three years ago.
"It's a tragedy but my thoughts go to the Keyser family and the families that have been left homeless."
Timothy Keyser, age 45, of Ridgway, died in the fire. As firefighters worked to rescue Keyser, he fell out of his third-floor window. Keyser was rushed to the hospital but later died from his injuries. Everett Fowler, age 62, also of Ridgway, was transported to Elk Regional Medical Center and later transported via helicopter to Pittsburgh for more medical treatment for smoke inhalation. There had been 16 residents in the eight apartments situated on the second and third floors of the building. Ridgway Mayor Dr. Guillermo Udarbe has taken in the five members of the Dong family. Their business, Ling Ling Restaurant, sustained heavy water damage from the blaze that spread throughout the second and third floors and caused the roof to collapse.
"I thank God it wasn't even more of a tragedy with 16 people living in there," Aiello said. "We're taking it day by day."
The Salvation Army of Ridgway has been accepting donations for the victims of the fire. With such an overwhelming response, the only clothing items now needed are men's size large, 32 waist/30 length pants and 11 1/2 size shoes. Other items such as bedding, personal hygiene items and gift cards are being accepted. A general fund of cash can also be accepted to help all the victims.