The Chambers Hotel Fires

In September, 1948 the Hartman House, as it was then known, was severely damaged by fire. Approximately 50 persons were left homeless after the fire. Flames, which followed an explosion swept the entire fourth floor of the huge structure and caused damage estimated at close to $100,000. The explosion echoed through the building at 1:45 a.m. and soon flames were pouring through the roof. Forty two permanent guests and several transient were quickly hurried from the structure. No one was injured. Four engine companies from Apollo, N. Apollo, Oklahoma, and Vandergrift battled the blaze throughout the night and were still working into the next morning, long after dawn. Quick work by the firemen kept the flames centered on the top floor, but water damage was reported throughout the hotel and in the drug store owned by W.E. Pauly, which has been located in the west corner of the hotel for more than 50 years. Owner and proprietor of the hotel, Joseph Maraffi had purchased the structure in 1946. He and his wife was in their second floor bedroom when the explosion rocked the building. She said the blast blew her off the bed. Mrs. Robert Walker and three children who lived on the fourth floor lost their entire personal possessions as they hurried from the building. Many families were able to carry some of their belongings with them, but much personal property was lost. A hotel employee, Mrs. C.M. Free, who lives across Warren Avenue, had her home piled with personal belongings of guests of the hotel. Many stayed with her until other quarters were found. Only one injury was reported to a volunteer firefighter from Leechburg. The fourth floor was so badly damaged that no attempt was made to restore it. The floor was removed and a roof was built over the ceiling of the third floor. Apollo News-Record, September 1948

In August, 1976 fire again swept through the building. Frank and Mary DeMeno had owned the building for about 23 years. According to the Apollo News-Record of August 18, 1976, the first call was made to Rainbow Control at 1:10 p.m. on Saturday, August 14 to report the fire. When the first trucks from the Apollo companies arrived, smoke and flames were coming from around the false ceiling on the third floor. The first two companies were primarily concerned with the evacuation of the building. The hotel residents, who were not able to save their belongings, made arrangements to stay with relatives or through the Vandergrift Salvation Army. Firemen were hampered by the wind blowing across the roof and by the dense, heavy smoke. The fire was brought under control shortly after 6 p.m. No other structures in the business district were damaged.

The Apollo Fire Companies were assisted by Kiski Twp. Vandergrift, N. Apollo, Oklahoma, State police, Lower Kiski and Avonmore Ambulance Services. The losses were estimated at $200,000.