Facade partially collapses at building outside Boyertown

Photo by Tom Kelly III Boyertown firefighters scale the roof of the Rogers Mechanical Company South Washington Street Sunday afternoon after a partial collapse of the building's facade.

COLEBROOKDALE - Saturday night's storms may have caused the partial collapse of the brick facade of the Rogers Mechanical Company building.

In addition to the collapse, which required several area fire companies to be dispatched Sunday afternoon around 1:50 p.m., two joists in the building's ceiling were cracked and needed to be repaired, fire officials said.

'We believe this happened in the storm (Saturday night),' Assistant Chief Ryan Bingaman, of Friendship Hook and Ladder Fire Company in Boyertown, said.

Bingaman said Friendship's chief, Charles Neubauer, works at Campbell Fittings, the building next to Rogers Mechanical. Neubauer got a call from a Campbell Fittings employee about seeing the results of the collapse Sunday, so fire crews responded.

'Our concern is public safety,' Bingaman said. 'We just wanted to make sure the building doesn't sprawl out into the street.'

A section of the building's brick facade, approximately six feet long, a few inches wide and three feet high, collapsed at the building's northwest corner, near where Washington Street and Englesville Road meet.

Firefighters worked on the roof, gathering together bricks and placing them into a milk crate attached to a pulley on the extended ladder of a Friendship truck. Two firefighters on the ground slowly lowered the full payload with a rope while the ladder was carefully swung out from the building.

A man waiting in the back of a flat bed truck emptied the bricks out before the crate was sent up again to repeat the work.

Eventually, a bucket replaced the crate as most of the bricks were removed and heaps of powdered mortar remained.

'Man, look at all that mortar,' one firefighter said, looking up to the roof.

Bingaman said two of the roof's joists were cracked. Although roof joists would normally be placed so that they were arranged parallel to the building's front now, the Rogers Mechanical building is many decades old, by Bingaman's guess, and the joists instead were placed the lenth-wise on the building, facing away from the front.

Firefighters made a temporary fix on the joists by scabbing them with another piece of wood.

Bingaman said Rogers Mechanical representatives were on scene and working with the fire crews' efforts. He said they would bring in a contractor to make more permanent repairs Monday.

'They're completely supportive,' Bingaman said of Rogers Mechanical.

No one was hurt in the incident and there appeared to be little external damage to the building or the sidewalk and road Sunday.

Bingaman said Friendship is one of three companies with a specific collapse unit in Berks County.

'We're pretty proficient,' at collapses, he said.

Everyone remained careful because of temperatures that crawled into the high 80s. Those working on the roof likely faced much hotter temperatures.

'Everybody's keeping cool,' Bingmana said, pointing to tents set up across the street from the collapse site where firefighters huddled with bottles of water in hand.

Responding to the scene, in addition to Friendship, were Keystone Steam Fire Company of Boyertown, Gilbertsville, New Berlinsville, and New Hanover Fire Companies, as well as Gilberstville Ambulance and the Colebrookedale Police.

Washington Street was shut down for most of the 200 block of South Washington Street during the early afternoon Sunday.

Follow Frank Otto on Twitter @fottojourno.

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