Indiana, PA - Indiana County

Fire destroys drilling-related business

by on July 08, 2014 11:00 AM

TIDE — A fire of uncertain origin early today destroyed the assembly and distribution plant of the V-King Corp. in a secluded section of Center Township along Route 954 between Indiana and Brush Valley.

Volunteers from 10 area fire departments answered the alarm at 4:58 a.m., most of them responding with tanks and hoses to help run water to the burning building.

V-King, a small manufacturer and supplier of parts and rigs for the well drilling industry, is owned by LeRoy and Lois Hetager, of White Township. It was located near Snyder Road.

At mid-morning, a state police fire marshal had arrived at the scene to search for clues to the origin of the fire. Local fire officials declined to speculate on the cause.

[PHOTO: Business owner LeRoy Hetager, right, watched early this morning with contractor Jeff Keller as firefighters continued to put out hot spots. (Jamie Empfield/Gazette photo)]

Flames had engulfed the building long before the fire companies reached the area.

“As soon as we crested the last hill on Route 56, I could see the glow in the sky. I knew we were going to have our hands full,” said Homer City fire department Assistant Chief Joe Iezzi Jr.

“It was a fully involved structure with heavy fire coming through the roof and all four sides of the building.”

The V-King plant sat about 40 to 50 yards away from the road, and Iezzi said the engines couldn’t reach the building.

That only made a bad water problem worse.

With no water utility service in the area, firefighters strung hoses and shuttled tank trucks to a set of “drop ponds” set up to hold water supplies for the pump trucks, Iezzi said.

One of the water sources was a pond near Coy’s Restaurant at the Route 56 intersection almost a mile away.

“It just wasn’t a good place for a fire,” he said.

No one was reported to be injured. If anything, firefighters benefited from the mild temperatures of early morning.

“These guys are busting their butts,” Iezzi said. “Thank God it’s not super hot out right now.”

After extinguishing most of the fire, Iezzi said, firefighters called in Risinger Trucking & Excavating, of Indiana, to help move the ruins of the structure so firefighters could reach the remaining hot spots.

Lois Hetager said her husband started the V-King company about 15 or 16 years ago, as a venture for his retirement.

He formerly operated the Hetager Drilling Co., of Punxsutawney, she said.

“He pretty much did it himself,” she said. “He wanted to make something new and different for the drilling business. It’s his own design.”

Lois Hetager said the building housed two new drilling rigs and “a lot of equipment.’

The fire “destroyed completely years and years of hard work,” she said.

Firefighters also were pressed into traffic control duties, due to the number of trucks parked on Route 954 and the hoses stretched all over the highway. Northbound traffic heading into the area from Brush Valley and Waterman was detoured at Route 56, and southbound motorists from Indiana could only get as far as Tide Road.

The detours remained in place at mid-morning.

Brush Valley, Armagh & East Wheatfield, Indiana, Blairsville, Coral-Graceton, Black Lick, Aultman, Cherryhill Township and Clyde fire companies and the Indiana County rapid-intervention team also fought the fire. Citizens’ Ambulance Service was dispatched to the scene as a precaution.

Chauncey Ross is the Gazette’s fixture at Indiana Area and Homer-Center school board meetings, has been seen with pen and notepad in area police stations and courts, and is something of an Open Records Act and Sunshine Law advocate. He also manages the Gazette’s websites and answers your questions about them.
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