The smell of soot still emanated on the 100 block of Gettysburg’s Chambersburg Street Monday afternoon as owners of buildings severely damaged by fire Friday met with cleaners, contractors and insurance company representatives.
The owner of the Ragged Edge Coffee House and executive director of the Adams Rescue Mission have vowed to rebuild as police determine who started the fire that destroyed a replica Civil War chapel, severely ruined a home currently on the market, temporarily left coffee shop employees without a source of income and displaced those living in a homeless shelter.
A press release distributed by the Gettysburg Borough Police Department Monday afternoon confirmed what many had already suspected. The four alarm blaze that broke at 3:37 a.m. Friday was intentionally set.
Borough Manager Florence Ford said the police department is investigating all leads and directed specific questions to Police Chief Joseph Dougherty. Dougherty was not available Monday and Ford said he is not expected to be in the office until Wednesday.
“You know what I heard one of the girls say to me today? It was priceless,” Bruce Dietrick, executive director of the Rescue Mission said as he stood in a room with no electricity, boarded windows, filthy walls and a crib. “She said ‘people are asking us all kinds of questions and I could start to feel like a victim. I am not a victim, we are all miracles. We all made it out safe.’ I just needed that perspective.”
Six families totaling eleven people live in the Rescue Mission’s apartment building, known as the Agape House. Service Pro, of Chambersburg, met with Dietrick Monday to evaluate the building.
Single mothers who have no other place to live call Agape home. Each family is given their own apartment, and this summer the Rescue Mission spent approximately $100,000 to upgrade the plumbing and electrical systems, as well as install an interconnected smoke alarm system.
“We give everybody the key to their own apartment,” Dietrick said. “What is interesting is we try to keep the location of our homeless shelters undisclosed because it protects our families. I guess it doesn’t matter now, because everyone else knows.”
Rebuilding Agape House after a fire will not be new to Dietrick. It was severely damaged in a Jan. 31, 2004 blaze that also damaged the Ragged Edge and the house at 116 Chambersburg Street. An apartment building that once occupied the lot that now houses the replica Civil War chapel was completely destroyed. It sat vacant until purchased by the United States Christian Commission in 2006.
“We took quite a beating back then, too,” Dietrick said. “Actually, I would have to say this fire caused more damage. There is definitely more damage now. It took us quite a while (to rebuild in 2004). I think it was four or five months.”
The community has reached out to help those affected by the fire.
Donations to rebuild the chapel, owned by the United States Christian Commission, can be made at www.savethecivilwarchapel.com . Contributions for the Agape House can be sent to: Adams County Rescue Mission, 2515 York Road, Gettysburg, PA 17325. Dietrick asked that “Fire Fund” be written in the memo line of checks so the Mission knows where to allocate the donations.
The Wyndham Hotel in Gettysburg reached out to Dietrick and offered rooms for Agape residents at $49 per night.
“That’s great, that’s a real good price but you times that by six families, it will kill you,” he said.
Dietrick said the Rescue Mission’s York Road, Straban Township; facility is for men only and is also full. Women from the Agape House have gone to the Mission’s thrift store and attempted to replace personal effects destroyed by the fire.
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