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Fire guts Atherton Street service station

Firefighters work to extinguish a fire at Hamilton Avenue and Atherton Street on Tuesday, Feb. 3, 2015.
Firefighters work to extinguish a fire at Hamilton Avenue and Atherton Street on Tuesday, Feb. 3, 2015. CDT photo

Firefighters were called to the scene of a two-alarm fire Tuesday at the service station at the intersection of South Atherton Street and West Hamilton Avenue.

Atherton was closed and traffic was rerouted from Beaver Avenue to Westerly Parkway for more than two hours as fire crews cleared the scene.

First responders were called to the scene, at 705 S. Atherton St., at about 11:20 a.m. Tuesday, State College police Capt. Matthew Wilson said.

The fire started in the garage bays of the service station and spread to the adjacent Pennsylvania Department of Health state health center, at 280 W. Hamilton Ave. in the Hamilton Square Shopping Center, causing extensive damage to both buildings.

According to witnesses, Wilson said, the fire started while work was being done on vehicles in the garage before flames moved to the health center. No injuries were reported.

At least two vehicles were inside the service bays when the fire started.

Centre Region Fire Director Steve Bair said the fire had already spread to the health center by the time crews arrived. The former site of the State College food bank, which was housed in the health center building, also was damaged, he said. The space is still unoccupied.

Crews from Alpha, Bellefonte and Boalsburg fire companies responded to the alarm, he said. Pleasant Gap and Port Matilda crews were on standby.

Bair couldn’t confirm the report of explosions, but he did say they aren’t uncommon in garage fires as flammable liquids and even tires can create explosive noises.

Once the fire was subdued, crews started laid absorbent materials around nearby storm drains. Bair said crews tried to limit the amount of runoff into the sewer system.

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