Indiana couple displaced by blaze over weekend
October 07, 2013 11:00 AM
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Authorities believe a fire that damaged a house in the Second Ward early Sunday started by accident.

Firefighters from four fire departments fought the flames that broke out just before 1 a.m. at a house owned by Kenneth and Nancy Robinson, at 650 Maple St.

The fire started at the back of the house and appeared to cause the most damage on the west side of the wood-frame structure, adjacent to Carpenter Avenue.

[See video of early firefighting efforts here.]

A state police fire marshal inspected the site Sunday evening and has narrowed down the possible causes of the fire, Indiana Fire Chief Charles R. Kelly said this morning.

“We’re ruling out anything suspicious; we think it’s an accidental fire,” Kelly said. “But nothing definite yet.”

Pinpointing the cause will require further inspection at the house and testing, he said.

No one was reported to be injured, although Kelly said the Robinsons’ dog died during the fire.

The Robinsons, who have lived 38 years in the house, climbed onto a porch roof after discovering the fire. Indiana Borough police helped them to safety before the first firetrucks arrived, Kelly said.

“They got a ladder from a neighbor and got them off the roof as we were coming in,” he said.

The activities of Indiana University of Pennsylvania homecoming weekend worked in favor of the incident, but also hampered firefighters.

Because of the level of activity in town, Kelly said, several firefighters had been spending the evening at the Water Street fire station.

But due to extremely heavy pedestrian traffic along the firefighters’ route, the South Seventh Street fraternity row, the minutes saved by being at the station were critical.

“They got on the road quickly — very quickly,” Kelly said. “That was a big plus for us.”

The fire attracted a large crowd of people to Maple Street, and police cordoned off the area to make room for firetrucks and an ambulance.

Spectators broke into applause when firefighters knocked down the flames visible at the back of the Robinsons’ house just minutes after running hoses to the scene.

The combination of fire, heat and smoke throughout the house rendered it unlivable, Kelly said. The heat melted some of the siding of a detached garage, but firefighters prevented damage to a neighboring house to the east.

The Cherryhill Township, Homer City and Coral-Graceton fire departments assisted at the scene, while the Clymer fire department served on standby in the Indiana fire station.

According to the county 911 website, the Black Lick, Brush Valley and Marion Center fire departments also served standby assignments at the Coral-Graceton, Homer City and Clymer fire stations.

Crews left the scene shortly after 3 a.m., Kelly said.

Firefighters found little time for rest on Sunday. Kelly said the Indiana department answered seven calls in all.

The others:

• An automatic fire alarm sounded at 4:50 a.m. at the First Commonwealth Bank offices at 612 Philadelphia St. After inspecting the building with company representatives, it was found to be a false alarm.

• A report of a structure fire at 6:43 a.m. at 1230 Oakland Ave., a house on the corner of Fisher Avenue. Officials found no fire and asked Indiana Borough police to investigate the circumstances of the call, Kelly said.

• An automatic alarm was activated at 8:49 a.m. at a motel along Plaza Drive near SouthTowne Plaza. Kelly reported it was a false alarm.

• A traffic accident at 1:27 p.m. on Oakland Avenue at the entrance to Regency Mall, where members of the rescue squad helped to free a passenger from a car. The passenger was sent to Indiana Regional Medical Center for treatment, Kelly said. State police released no information about the accident before press time.

• An automatic alarm at 7:34 p.m. on Washington Street, Indiana. There was no fire.

• A follow-up call early in the evening at 650 Maple St., where firefighters were called to set up lights to illuminate the damaged house while the fire marshal investigated.

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