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ATF: No known cause of fire that killed 2 York City firefighters

Liz Evans Scolforo
York Dispatch

A cause cannot be determined for a York City fire that led to the deaths of two firefighters when the building collapsed in March.

The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives on Thursday, Aug. 16, announced it has closed its investigation into the cause and origin of the three-alarm blaze, which also seriously injured two other firefighters.

Ivan Flanscha, 50, and Zach Anthony, 29, were killed when the former Weaver Piano & Organ Co. building at 127 N. Broad St. collapsed on March 22, 2018. The building burned down the day before.

The former Weaver Organ & Piano Co. building on North Broad Street badly burned in a three-alarm blaze on March 21, 2018. The next day, firefighters returned to battle hot spots, and part of the building collapsed on four of them, killing two and badly injuring two others. 
(John A. Pavoncello photo)

"Due to the extensive damage and lack of evidence, a specific point of origin and ignition source could not be identified, therefore, this fire is classified as 'undetermined,'" an ATF news release from spokeswoman Charlene Hennessy states.

An ATF National Response Team was on site the day after the collapse and worked with York City Police, the York City Fire Department and state police to investigate, according to the release.

Investigators were processing the scene through March 30, which included conducting numerous interviews, following leads, collecting video surveillance, examining forensic evidence and analyzing the data collected, Hennessy wrote.

'Sheer will': Flanscha, Anthony, Assistant Fire Chief Greg Altland and firefighter Erik Swanson were on the fourth floor of the burned-out building when it collapsed suddenly and without warning, York City Fire Chief David Michaels said.

The four were buried under rubble and debris.

The rescue effort to find all four firefighters "was quite possibly the most complex rescue in our department's history," Michaels said.

That effort saved the lives of Altland and Swanson with "rescue tools, sheer will and brute force," the chief said on Thursday at the city fire department's annual awards ceremony.

More:York City firefighters honored for bravery, compassion, sacrifice

A massive three-alarm blaze on March 21 damaged much of the structure. The building was being renovated, and a portion of it was being turned into apartments, officials have said.

City fire crews returned there the next day to battle hot spots, officials have said, and that's when part of the building collapsed and trapped four of them.

York City Firefighter Ivan Flanscha

Badges retired: The badges of Flanscha — the father of five — and Anthony were officially retired Thursday and will be kept with the badges of other York City firefighters killed in the line of duty.

The National Response Team is composed of longtime special agents who have extensive expertise in determining the causes of explosions and fires, as well as forensic chemists, electrical engineers, accelerant-detection dogs and others, according to Hennessy.

York City Firefighter Zach Anthony helps four-year-old Zyera Preston, of York City, down from Engine 99-6 while letting her explore the fire truck during the South Duke Street Block Party in York City, Saturday, Aug. 19, 2017. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Anyone with information about the fire is asked to call the ATF's 24-hour toll-free hotline, 888-ATF-FIRE, or email tips to ATFTips@atf.gov.

Anonymous tips can be submitted using the ReportIt app.

— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at levans@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.