At 9 a.m. Thursday, Melissa Turman was steeling herself to take a look at the interior of her home on South Duke Street in York, and take account of what's left.

The Red Cross had put her up in a hotel room the night before, after a fire that started in her row home spread to four other properties in the 500 block, all of which sat vacant in the Thursday's morning stillness.

Turman said a 4-year-old child, a relative of hers, had accidentally started the fire. She still wasn't clear how.

She's grateful the Red Cross arranged the hotel accommodations for her and for the relatives who were living with her. But already, she was beginning to think about finding a new place.

So how's she coping?

"The best I can," Turman said, then stepped inside the house.

The fire wasn't the only crisis in that part of the city. About 6:15 p.m. Wednesday, a water main broke a couple of blocks to the west on the 500 block of South George Street, according to J.T. Hand, chief operating officer at the York Water Company.

There's no way to tell whether it was connected to the massive flow of water coming out of the hydrants on South Duke Street, or whether it was just an unfortunate coincidence, Hand said. But a six-inch, cast-iron pipe burst, sending water bubbling up in the middle of George Street.

Alfred Oden is seen from the second floor of his home on the 500 block of South Duke Street after Wednesday’s fire that destroyed it.
Alfred Oden is seen from the second floor of his home on the 500 block of South Duke Street after Wednesday's fire that destroyed it. (DAILY RECORD / SUNDAY NEWS -- JASON PLOTKIN)

Hand said they blocked off the street and shut off that main, disrupting water flow for 37 nearby properties. It had no effect on the firefighters, Hand said.

The repair involved digging up the street where the main was located and replacing the broken section of pipe. By 8 a.m. Thursday, it was fixed again and all of the water customers had their service restored.

"We did the best we could to communicate, and apologize for the inconvenience," Hand said.

Wednesday night also presented challenges for the York-Adams Chapter of the American Red Cross, according to executive director Matt Leininger.

The agency typically helps people who are displaced in fires -- finding them shelter, making sure they have food and clothing, replacing prescriptions and eyeglasses, and even providing canteen services for emergency workers on the site.

The difficulty Wednesday night was dealing with the occupants of four different buildings at once, Leininger said. They had to find accommodations for 16 people from five different families.

"That always makes it a challenge, when there are multiple families involved," he said.


A large fire destroyed 16 row houses on the 700 block of Chestnut Street in York on July 8. More than 60 people were displaced.

Missy Gosnell, director of case management with the Community Progress Council, said that, of the 14 families forced to evacuate their homes after that fire, 10 have since found a new place to live.

No arrests have been made in connection with the fire, which was ruled arson.

On the blog
- York's rowhouses becoming an endangered species. Read more at York Town Square.