The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

November 8, 2013

Lower Yoder home collapses

Frank Sojak

JOHNSTOWN — A couple were evacuated from their Lower Yoder Township home around 4:30 p.m. Friday when a vacant house just feet from theirs partially collapsed.

Firefighters, police and township supervisors responded to the house, located on the first block of Gilbert Street. They found that the side of the house facing an empty lot had blown out. They also found the other side had bowed outward toward the neighbors’ house nearby and that the roof was caving in.

Township fire Chief Mike Janisko said it appears that the structure had been weakened, but the reason could not immediately be determined.

Firefighters evacuated the couple living in the adjacent home for safety reasons. They sought shelter with relatives, Janisko said.

Firefighters are working with the supervisors in an attempt to identify and locate the owner of the vacant house, Janisko said.

Firefighters closed Gilbert Street between Pennsylvania Avenue and Wall Street, he said.

Township Supervisor Gary Stiffler said a contractor who has razed a couple of blighted houses for the township was called to the scene to assess the situation.

Penelec also was at the scene to remove an electric-service line that was not activated but was connected to the house, he said.

The township will condemn the house and get the property owner to tear the house down immediately, Stiffler said.

The township will help the property owner in any way that it can, he said.

“Something has to be done,” he said. “It can’t say like that.”

The couple was asked to leave their home due to a concern that the vacant house could collapse onto theirs, he said.

After studying the situation, it was determined that there was no danger of the house collapsing onto Gilbert Street, he said.

The street was reopened around 5:40 p.m.

Also responding were firefighters from Westwood and West Hills police.

Frank Sojak is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at