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Fire destroys buildings

The cause of the fire that broke out in the early morning hours of Sunday on the 500 block of Washington Street is still under investigation by the state police fire marshal.

Multiple crews from Huntingdon, Blair and Mifflin counties were dispatched to a three-alarm dwelling fire at 515 and 517 Washington St. that began at 3:40 a.m. Sunday morning, destroying apartments and a business, M&T Vacuums.

According to Corey Stuller, a Huntingdon Borough Police officer, he was on a routine patrol driving down Washington Street when he noticed the fire and called it in to Huntingdon County 911 Center.

Stuller also relayed to The Daily News that seven people, along with four cats and three dogs, escaped with no harm, from the apartments in each building.

The Red Cross was able to provide disaster relief for all who were displaced as a result of the fire.

Huntingdon Regional Fire & Rescue Chief Gary Garner said the cause of the fire is currently under investigation; however, he believes the fire started on the top floor of 515 Washington St., and the fire spread quickly to the neighboring building.

However, Garner said because of the quick work from firefighters on the scene from multiple companies throughout the county, they were able to contain it so it didn’t spread.

“The crews did a great job holding the fire to those buildings,” said Garner. “The fire could have potentially impacted another business, Cloudminders.”

Garner further explained that though it appears to look like three buildings were impacted, the building at 517 Washington St. is one building with two empty storefronts on the bottom floor.

Garner also couldn’t confirm for certain if the building owners have insurance, but he believes they do.

Additionally, no firefighters were injured, though there were ambulance crews available at the Huntingdon Drop-In Center in case anyone needed assistance.

Garner also thanked the many people who provided the first responders with food and water throughout the duration of the fire.

“I want to thank the several locations who reached out to us to provide us with food and water,” he said.

A Facebook post circulating is seeking donations for clothing items for those displaced as a result of the fire, including women’s size 20 pants, 3XL shirts and size 10 shoes, mens size 34-35 and length 32 in pants and large and extra large in shirts, men’s size 29-30 in jeans and medium shirts and girls sizes 7-8 in shirts and pants and size 5-6 in shoes.

Anyone who wants to make a clothing donation is encouraged to drop them off at 1509 Washington St. and leave them in a neat pile on the porch.

Emergency personnel dispatched to the scene in addition to Huntingdon Regional Fire & Rescue included Smithfield, Marklesburg, Alexandria, Petersburg, Mount Union, Mill Creek, Stone Creek Valley volunteer fire companies, Mapleton Fire Department, Twin Creeks Ambulance, Juniata Valley Ambulance, Huntingdon Ambulance, as well as crews from Mifflin and Blair counties.

Washington Street from Fifth to Sixth streets was closed for the duration of the call, and the scene was cleared and the street was opened up to traffic once again at just before 11 a.m.

Juniata students move in, experience culture

Juniata College’s incoming class of 2023 got its first taste of what it’s like to be a Juniatian this weekend after moving into campus Saturday.

This year, outside of fall athletes who arrived early for preseason training, all freshmen students are enrolled in the Inbound Program.

Inbound was designed to acclimate any new students, including transfer and international students, to life on campus over four days, Aug. 24-27.

“I think it’s a special program we do on campus. It keeps the students active and engaged, like the Juniata personality,” said Erin Paschal, director of student engagement and campus activities.

Prior to arriving on campus, students choose from 38 retreats or activities they will participate in while meeting their classmates and getting to know upperclassmen.

This year, some of the activities include white water rafting at Ohiopyle State Park, yoga in State College, attending a Pittsburgh Pirates game and exploring the local community.

“Inbound so far has been a lot better than I expected, honestly,” said Russell Branton, an incoming freshman from Williamsport who will be enrolling in the college’s pre-med career track. “I figured it would be a relaxed situation, but it’s turned out to be a lot more. I’ve made a bunch of friends. We were a Raystown Lake today. It’s been awesome.”

A typical retreat group includes 10 first-year students and two peer leaders, upperclassmen who act as mentors and guides for new students.

“Inbound definitely stands as one of Juniata College’s most time-honored and enjoyable traditions,” said Karan Nair, a senior at Juniata who participated in the program as a freshman and last year served as an Inbound peer leader.

The Juniata community prides itself on its ethos, and Inbound let’s students immerse themselves in campus culture before they start hitting the books.

“Inbound doesn’t just provide first-year students an opportunity to make friends while participating in activities and excursions, but it allows them to acclimate to the culture and lifestyle of the college while doing so. Through programs like white water rafting, gaming, dance, hiking, camping, martial arts, climbing, community service and countless more, new Juniatians often find themselves making they best friends while enjoying four days of fun before the stressors of the fall semester begin,” said Nair.

Inbound activities will conclude tomorrow, Tuesday, Aug. 27, and all students, first-year and upperclass, will begin classes for the fall semester Thursday, Aug. 28.

Nathan can be reached at nwoods@huntingdondailynews.com.

Fall variety at farmers' market

Summer is the perfect time to enjoy vine-ripened tomatoes, fresh-picked sweet corn and crisp cucumbers right out of the garden, but even when those harvest are over, there’s still plenty of reasons to visit the local farmers’ market.

“Well, people think, ‘oh, it’s cold, stuff’s done.’ But that’s not true at all,” said Nick Miller, who helps run the Hemmabast-SylvanSun Farm Co-Op in Huntingdon. “I think fall is actually the best time of year to come to market, especially if it’s a mild fall. We’ll be picking tomatoes until it freezes, and the same with the peppers.”

Along with a diverse set of other vendors, Hemmabast-Sylvan Sun Farm Co-op is at the Huntingdon Farmers’ Market at Portstown Park from noon to 5 p.m. each Thursday until the end of October.

For those looking for a wide range of locally grown, organic produce options, the coming months should provide ample opportunity.

“We’re constantly getting new stuff. Particularly in the fall we have a variety at market because all the stuff from summer carries over; all the peppers and tomatoes and all that good stuff, but then in the fall we have additionally broccoli, asian greens, sweet potatoes, all the winter squashes, all the pumpkins, the brussels sprouts, all that stuff,” said Miller. “We have a late round of beans coming in, too.”

The current market was started in 2007 through the efforts of James Pingry of Hemmabast Farm.

But it seems like only recently that local shoppers have realized fall is often the ideal time to come to market.

“People have been catching on. Maybe four or five years ago, October was one of our slowest months, but it’s become one of our best months actually over the last few years because people now know, ‘wow, ok, fall market is really good,’” said Miller.

The Huntingdon Farmers’ Market is operated by the Huntingdon County Local Food Association, a charitable and educational nonprofit organization. All kinds of fruits and vegetables, homemade bread, pastries, baked goods, cheese, eggs, meat, flowers, herbs and other items are offered each week.

Nathan can be reached at nwoods@huntingdondailynews.com.

Busy lake season to continue

After a busy summer, Raystown Lake is expecting to see the number of its visitors stay high going into Labor Day.

It’s been a really busy summer at the lake, the warm weather has played into that. The last few years we’ve had a lot of rain and that kept the numbers down, but that hasn’t been the case this year,” said park ranger Allen Gwinn with the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers at Raystown Lake. “It’s been a typical hot and humid Pennsylvania summer, and our visitation numbers have been high because of that.”

Visitors from across the state and beyond have taken full advantage of what the lake has to offer.

“The boat launches, beach and picnic areas have all been at full capacity each weekend through August and we suspect that will continue through Labor Day,” said Gwinn.

Gwinn said a dip in visitation numbers is typical around this time of year, though.

“With school going back a little early, we may see a dip in visitation in the middle of the week. We typically see a downward trend because folks are in school and sports and those sorts of things,” he said.

There’s an expectation that numbers will return to close to what has been seen over the summer.

“If the weather stays nice we’ll see a return to those full capacity numbers for what we can call the last hurrah of summer. I saw we’re expected a warm and dry fall, so we’ll be seeing some busy weekends even into the end of September,” said Gwinn.

Nathan can be reached at nwoods@huntingdondailynews.com.

No cases of virus found in county

So far this summer, the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has found no cases of West Nile Virus in the county.

“According to John Repetz, community relations coordinator for DEP, the fewest number of positive mosquito samples have been found in the state this year since 2009.

“Each day, DEP tests mosquito samples collected by county mosquito control programs,” he said. “DEP annually tests more than 20,000 samples sent by counties. Since West Nile Virus was first discovered in 2000 in Pennsylvania, more than 500 people have contracted the virus from the bite of an infected mosquito, including 130 in 2018, of which eight were fatal.”

Matt Helwig, DEP program specialist, further explained that last year 34% of samples taken were infected with West Nile Virus; however, only 2% were impacted this year.

He also explained a possible reason for the fewer number of samples.

“It has to do with the host population (which are birds),” said Helwig. “Last year, activity was very high, which means it leads to birth deaths and bird immunity. This year, host populations haven’t been as abundant and have had immunity to West Nile Virus.”

According to Helwig, the lack of detection has nothing to do with weather, as they are still finding plenty of mosquitoes to take samples from, but not as many are infected with West Nile Virus.

The peak time to detect West Nile Virus in the state is the third week of August until the third week of September.

He also gave some tips to prevent mosquito bites, which is how the virus is spread to humans.

“Remove any stagnant water from around the home,” said Helwig. “Mosquitoes like to breed in those types of containers, so make sure you don’t have them around your home.”

Also, Helwig said that if anyone is out and about this time of year, they should always wear insect repellent and clothing that covers the body.

For more information about West Nile Virus and DEP’s efforts, visit their page at www.depgis.state.pa.us/WNV/index.html.