Cigarette to blame for Lancaster County apartment fire

LITITZ, LANCASTER COUNTY, Pa. -- Over a dozen people are left without a place to sleep after a fire rips through an apartment building in Lancaster County.

Fire officials say a preliminary investigation revealed the fire at ‘Old Mill Apartments’ in Ephrata started after a carelessly discarded cigarette sparked and spread throughout ten of its units, three of them home to people living with disabilities.

“They’ve lost everything, they’ve lost their home, they’ve lost their belongings," said Gwen Schuit, CEO at Friendship Community.

Schuit, who runs 'Friendship Community' says her organization helps people with disabilities with their daily needs, adding that they rent out one of those apartment units.

Kayla Moss, who is one of their caregivers, was working when she got a call that the apartment was on fire.

“They’re disabled, they don’t know what’s going on and they had no idea why we weren’t allowed to go home? They kept asking why are aren’t we going home, I want to go home and we couldn’t, we weren’t allowed," said Moss. “They’re really heartbroken," she added.

Robert Madeira lives on the first floor. He says he experienced severe water damage to his place, but considers himself lucky.

“It’s a problem, but hey, it’s not much compared to a lot of other people," said Madeira.

“I stayed with a friend last night and tonight I am not sure yet but the insurance company is supposed to pick up a hotel for the near future if I want it until I find something else," he added.

FOX43 reached out to the owner of the apartment complex for comment regarding the no smoking policy following the fire, however we did not hear back.

For more information on how you can donate and help Friendship Community members who were displaced, you can visit:

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