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Attempt to repair furnace leads to house fire in Bell

| Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014, 12:11 a.m.
Erica Dietz | Valley News Dispatch
Firefighters battled 12-degree weather in addition to a house fire in Bell Township on Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014.
Erica Dietz | Valley News Dispatch
Firefighters ventilate a trailer after a house fire in Bell Township on Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014.
Erica Dietz | Valley News Dispatch
A firefighters checks for fire in the eaves of a house along McDivitt Road in Bell Township on Tuesday, Feb, 11, 2014.

A Bell man's efforts to fix a problematic furnace somehow sparked a fire Tuesday that severely damaged the home that he and his wife had shared for 30 years.

Brian and Tracy Dudley, along with their dog Harley, escaped unharmed from the fire at their home at 234 McDivitt Road, which is off Route 819 in the southern reaches of the township. The fire was reported to Armstrong County 911 at 5:16 p.m.

Brian Dudley said he was working on the old, oil-fired furnace in the center of the home, trying to get it to run, when it caught on fire.

“It's been giving me headaches off and on all winter,” he said.

Tracy Dudley said they had just gotten food delivered from Fox's Pizza when the fire started.

“It was such a massive ball of flames from the furnace,” she said, sitting in a car to keep warm with Harley, a Pekingese-Maltese mix. “It looked like the whole entire hall was on fire.”

Bell fire Chief Steve Master said there was heavy smoke showing when firefighters arrived. The Dudleys were outside.

Master described the home as a trailer conversion, possibly a trailer with an addition. Firefighters went inside and had the fire under control in about 40 minutes, he said.

No firefighters were hurt.

Master described the house as a 60 percent loss, and rendered uninhabitable.

He said half the damage came from the fire, and the rest from firefighters having to tear down the ceiling inside. With temperatures outside hovering around 10 to 12 degrees, Master said firefighters didn't use that much water, only about 3,000 gallons. In addition to water, they also used compressed air foam.

Brian Dudley said they had insurance. They have family in the area, and were considering staying at a hotel. Master said the Red Cross was called to help them.

Tracy Dudley said she ran outside without a coat, but her husband got it for her from a chair in the living room. “It was a good thing it wasn't put away,” she said.

That they had just had food delivered made making finding Harley easy — he was in the living room with the food, Tracy Dudley said.

“Nobody had to hunt him down,” she said. “He was right there with the food.”

Brian C. Rittmeyer is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4701 or brittmeyer@tribweb.com.

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