Burned food causes stir in Zelie
Senior housing unit evacuated
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Eagle Staff Writer
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Published:
April 19, 2017
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Brian Dambaugh, assistant fire chief for the Harmony Fire District, holds a burned pot of chicken wings blamed for a smoke scare Saturday morning at the Maple Court Apartments in Zelienople.

ZELIENOPLE — Chicken wings left cooking on a stove inside an apartment made for a “fowl” morning Saturday at a senior housing complex in the borough.

The poultry breakfast left unattended on a stove about 8:45 a.m. fried the pot, filling three floors with smoke and causing dozens of tenants to evacuate their apartments at the Maple Court Apartments on South High Street, authorities said.

“The residents pretty much evacuated themselves,” said Brian Dambaugh, assistant chief for the Harmony Fire District. “We assisted some who had medical needs.”

Zelienople police also helped to make sure everyone got out safely.

No one was injured at the five-story, 75-apartment facility, which is owned by the Butler County Housing Authority. But the fire call caused some anxious moments for the residents.

“There was a lot of smoke in that building when we got here,” Dambaugh said. “The smoke was all over the third, fourth and fifth floors.”

A tenant on the fifth floor pulled the fire alarm after seeing the smoke. Many of the rooms' smoke detectors also were activated.

Firefighters tracked the source of the commotion to a third-floor apartment.

Apparently, the tenant, believed to be in his 60s or 70s, didn't know what all the fuss was about when police and volunteer firefighters came knocking at his door.

“He didn't have a clue what was going on.” Dambaugh said. “He didn't know it was coming from his apartment.”

Crews shut off the stove and removed the pan full of chicken wings, burnt to a blackened crisp.

Firefighters remained there until after 10 a.m., to ventilate the building and ensure all the residents were at ease back in their apartments.

Dambaugh said he was relieved there was no fire and no injuries. But as he packed up his gear to leave, he had one lingering question.

“I don't know why,” he said, “that someone would be cooking chicken so early in the morning.”