Work is at a standstill on the scene of a building collapse in Reading that left neighbors shaken up.
It was a frightening scene and dangerous situation as the front of the building at the corner of Birch and Buttonwood streets crumbled to pieces around 5 p.m. Tuesday.
"It sounded like an explosion almost. I thought someone's house blew up," said Ashley Campbell, who lives a few houses away.
"It went boom and it just fell down and collapsed on the ground," said Ayannah Edwards, who watched the building crumble.
Bricks came crashing down, tore through an awning and created a massive five-foot pile of rubble on the sidewalk where neighbors said people were walking past just moments before.
"I thought somebody was underneath it, I really did, but I didn't hear anything when I walked up and didn't see anything and I was happy," said Campbell.
It was tense moments for neighbors in the Reading neighborhood.
An army of fire officials and police were quickly on scene and roped off the area to keep onlookers at bay. They feared another section of the building could fall at any moment.
"With the erosion of the mortar joints, it brought the bricks out and it collapsed down in the sidewalk, leaving a life hazard," said Gary Mogel, first deputy chief with the Reading Fire Department.
A building inspector deemed the building unsafe. The structure suffered structural damage, and part of it must be demolished, officials said.
Residents outside were breathing a sigh of relief that no one was found underneath the rubble.
"That could have happened when any kid was coming home from school. what if it happened during the school year? Anything could have happened," said Danielle Hurst.
The building's owner, Harry Stouffer, who was living in the building with no utilities, was temporarily placed in handcuffs for refusing to cooperate with investigators on the scene, officials said. He was charged with disorderly conduct and released.