AMITY TWP., Pa. - A Pennsylvania state police fire marshal conducted a full-blown investigation Monday into an explosive fire that destroyed a beloved business in Berks County.
Extra manpower was brought in and dozens of firefighters fought against fierce flames and frigid conditions Sunday night at the Friendship Farm Market in the 700 block of Old Swede Road in Amity Township.
Daylight revealed the devastation at the market, and investigators sifted through the rubble after decades worth of memories went up in smoke.
"We were all just sitting upstairs and all a sudden we heard a big boom, it sounded like an explosion," said Alicia Angstadt, who lives directly across the street.
Angstadt shot video of the market inferno on her cell phone, which showed flames shooting high into the air.
Jim Yerks first thought it sounded like a car accident. Then he saw the glow of the fire in the rear of the building, where officials said the fire started.
"When I ran across the street to look that's when I called 911 and another explosion went off," said Yerks.
The fire quickly jumped to two alarms, and the fire hydrant sitting about 200 yards away was frozen solid. About 15 fire companies responded, including tanker trucks, which made for a cold and dangerous job for firefighters.
"The fire hydrant didn't operate properly because of the weather conditions so obviously weather played a huge factor," said Chief Mike Zomosky, Amity Fire Co.
The property owner, Peter D'Angeli, 84, built the building about 50 years ago as a hobby. The business started out small and grew over the years. The building has changed hands several times, and opened as Friendship Farm Market this past summer. It closed for the season in November.
Now, the inside is gutted, and glass and debris litter the ground outside.
"It's gone. I'm hoping at least they'll rebuild and get back to the way it used to be," said Angstadt, who would walk across the street for ice cream.
An exact cause has not been determined. The chief said the building is a total loss and estimated about $500,000 in damage.
D'Angeli said he will most likely rebuild.
Allentown, PA 18102