The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

October 5, 2013

Arson only logical reason for house fire, chief says

By Melissa Klaric
Herald Staff Writer

SHARON — A vacant house fire in Sharon that was roaring – bonfire-like – as the first fire engines arrived Thursday evening was likely arson, Fire Chief Terry Whalen said.

Whalen said there was no other reason for all three floors and the basement to be on fire since it was vacant and all the utilities were off.

“There was some heavy fire there so we took a defensive attack,” Whalen said. “We had to fight the fire from the outside.”

The first and second floors of 263 Florence St. were burned out, making it hard to determine where the fire started, Whalen said.

Donald Powell lives behind the vacant house in the 200 block of Orchard Avenue. He first smelled what he described as burnt rubber before he saw the fire.

“It looked like a big bonfire. The back was lit up,” he said.

The fire spread to the house next door, west of 263. Whalen said the siding on that vacant house was burning off.

Powell said the first firefighter to arrive, Capt. Paul McSherry Jr., was brave to approach it like he did.

“The first fireman went in and the whole front part collapsed and he fell down, then the hose went crazy,” Powell said.

“For him to go in the house like that, he took a big risk,” Powell said.

Whalen said McSherry was fine, and no one else was hurt.

Firefighters returned to the house about 7:40 a.m. Friday to put out a stubborn slow burn that reignited.

Whalen said that happened because it was hard to find all the hot spots without going inside.

“It was very tedious, but we did not want to put anyone in harm’s way,” Whalen said.

Farrell firefighters assisted.