Indiana, PA - Indiana County

Firm rebuilds after blaze

by and on January 20, 2014 11:00 AM

The process of rebuilding is under way at a White Township business that lost its maintenance garage in December — or at least the process of seeking approval to do so. And, as far as other large fires that happened last month within 10 days of each other, the cause of one has been detailed and the investigation of another continues.

Energy service firm Northeast Energy submitted an application for preliminary approval to the township’s planning commission, township officials said last week at the planner’s meeting.

Plans include building the same type of structure on the existing footer, which was not damaged by the fire, according to Milt Lady, township manager.

[PHOTO: Volunteer firefighters at Northeast Energy, White Township, on Dec. 24. (Gazette file photo)]

The company is currently in what its operations manager, Tony Long, calls a “holding pattern” as its insurance company gathers information.

“We’re waiting on the insurance company to get everything they need, then we’ll clean it up and go from there,” Long said.

The firm’s offices at 2018 S. Sixth St. — on the same site as the maintenance garage that burned down — were not damaged and are operational.

As far as maintenance goes, Northeast Energy’s Shelocta site is handling the work.

Long couldn’t give specifics on the cost of the damage, which has been described by fire officials as “significant.”

The Dec. 24 fire that destroyed the company’s maintenance garage along South Sixth Street in White Township, near the intersection of Route 954 and Lucerne Road, was ruled accidental several days after the blaze.

The early-morning fire started in the engine compartment of a tractor that was awaiting service at the garage the next day, according to state police Trooper Scott Mackanick.

Firefighters battled heavy smoke and flames, which broke through the garage’s roof, draining two of their tankers. They then relied on water from a nearby pond.

In addition to four fire departments, which were dispatched to what was initially a smoke alarm around 5:15 a.m., the Indiana County Hazmat team responded to the scene as a precaution.

The fire was extinguished before 7 a.m., though crews continued to douse what was left of the structure to prevent flare-ups.

The Northeast Energy fire was one of three that occurred within roughly 10 miles of one another in a 10-day span in December.

The first, which started at apartment buildings at Smith Concrete along Old Route 119 a little before 3 a.m. on Dec. 14, was also ruled accidental.

The fire started, according to Mackanick, when hot grinding embers from a construction project at the building got into pieces of insulation between the building’s first and second floors. Those smoldered, he said, and eventually the building caught on fire.

There were no injuries reported, but a number of individuals living at the building lost their homes.

Another fire, which happened at Accent Fuels along West Indiana Street in Homer City, is still under investigation.

The fire started around 3:15 a.m. Dec. 19 at the 17,000-square-foot facility. The building included offices and a garage in which vehicles and equipment supplies were kept.

Multiple fire departments from throughout the county responded to the blaze. They battled flames until midday. Crews returned to battle hot spots into the next morning.

Some of the homes surrounding the Accent site sustained heat damage but there was no major structural damage and all residents were allowed to return to their homes the same day as the fire, according to Homer City police Chief Joe Sacco.

Accent Fuels, Sacco said, has, for the time being, moved its operations to a location near the Sheetz on Route 119.

While the Ebensburg-based fire marshal, state police Trooper Carl Richards, awaits lab results from the ATF’s Pittsburgh office, the police station continues to work with Homer City police.

Results will come, Sacco said, through the borough’s police department.

Chief Photographer Tom Peel has been photographing events in the county since 1966. He started with the Gazette while in high school and then came on board full-time in 1969. So if you do something good, bad or just interesting, he will most likely be there to take your picture. Tom can be reached at or 724-465-5555 ext. 275.

Julie E. Martin is a staff writer for the Indiana Gazette. Among her assignments are coverage of the Apollo-Ridge School and Penns Manor Area school districts and also White Township.
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