Officials: Cause of fire still undetermined
Dangerous conditions of two burned houses in Indiana prevented authorities from finding the point of origin and the cause of a blaze that gutted the structures early Tuesday.
Officers of the Indiana fire department and a state police fire marshal discovered heavy accumulations of ice and water in the houses after the fire was extinguished, said Assistant Fire Chief Paul Koons.
The blaze broke out before 3 a.m. in a house at 506 S. Seventh St. and jumped to a house situated about 10 feet away at 504 S. Seventh, officials said.
[PHOTO: Rear view of burned houses. The blaze started in the house at right and spread to the structure at left. (Tom Peel/Gazette photo)]
Volunteers from Indiana and four other area fire departments fought the blaze while temperatures hovered around zero.
Ice formed outside and inside both houses, and has yet to melt and drain away.
“In the house where the fire started, we have about 4 to 5 feet of water in the basement,” Koons said.
“We’re hoping that this water will go down when everything starts to melt. Then we’ll be able to get in and dig a bit.
“The fire marshal yesterday did what he could, but because of the instability of the homes and because of the water and ice, nothing has been determined.”
The investigation will proceed on a day-to-day basis.
“The ice is still there, and every step is pretty treacherous for investigators,” he said.
The Homer-Center, Coral-Graceton, Cherryhill Township and Clymer fire companies assisted Indiana fire department at the scene, while the Black Lick, Creekside and Marion Center fire departments were placed on standby.
Citizens’ Ambulance Service paramedics set up a tent to serve as a rehab station for firefighters and monitored their medical issues. Although a few reportedly slipped on ice, none were injured, officials said.
Koons said the Giant Eagle Express store sent refreshments for firefighters, and nearby residents opened their homes for firefighters’ comfort as the morning wore on.
None of the residents were injured.
One man living in the house where the fire started, which was a rental property, was away at the time; six Indiana University of Pennsylvania students fled the adjacent house when the fire spread, and were offered emergency accommodations through the university’s Office of Housing and Residence Life.