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Officials urge vigilance in Glassport fires

| Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2012, 3:47 a.m.
A destroyed truck and garage and melted siding are just some examples of the damage done by fires in Glassport Monday night. Cindy Shegan Keeley | Daily News
A stairwell at St. Cecilia's Church near the intersection of Eighth Avenue and Ohio Street caught fire in Glassport Monday night. Cindy Shegan Keeley | Daily News
A stairwell at St. Cecilia's Church near the intersection of Eighth Avenue and Ohio Street caught fire in Glassport Monday night. Cindy Shegan Keeley | Daily News

Recent fires in Glassport have residents wondering what could happen next.

“I believe everyone in the town's concerned because nobody wants to have fires,” Mayor Michael Evanovich said. “Especially in these little towns, a lot of these houses are touching. Citizens are concerned that if something would happen it could be a catastrophe.”

Allegheny County Fire Marshal and Glassport police continue to investigate several fires that occurred Monday night into Tuesday morning. The first fire was called in Monday around 11 p.m. at the condemned St. Cecilia's Church near the intersection of Ohio Avenue and Eighth Street.

Next came calls for garage fires in the 900 block of Indiana Avenue on Tuesday around 12:30 a.m. Another set of fires arose less than 15 minutes later in garages along the 900 block of Cherry Alley.

Two houses also sustained heat damage along the alley. Those houses were evacuated.

Glassport fire Chief Wayne Lewis said his crews were out all night and all morning.

“Right now all these fires are suspicious at this point,” Lewis said. “All we're doing now is compiling the evidence to start the investigation. That will be all conducted with fire officials in Glassport and the (Allegheny County) Fire Marshal.”

“I believe we have someone going around starting fires,” Evanovich said. “There were too many fires in a short amount of time. I don't know a lot about it because everything went over to the county. They've basically taken over the investigation. My departments, between police, fire and myself and neighboring communities, we all work together. The communication's excellent. We go back and forth trying to figure out if this is going to happen again.”

Dave Kowalski, Glassport Crime Watch co-coordinator, said his nephew brought a fire extinguisher to Cherry Lane and helped put out the garage fires.

“We have a great, great fire department that gets no appreciation by anybody until they become the victims,” Kowalski said.

A destroyed garage and truck, severely singed car and melted vinyl siding on the back of a house are just some examples of the damage done at the Cherry Lane blazes.

“I just looked out the window and saw everything on fire,” neighbor Dave Homlotis told Trib Total Media news exchange partner WPXI. “By the time I backed my car up down the alley, the whole roof collapsed on my truck.”

“I came outside and looked (out) on the porch and I (saw) all these flames down here,” resident Tonia Kifer said. “That was wild ... I think that's a shame. They set five fires in Glassport. Catch whoever did it.”

Kowalski said these incidents are prime examples of why residents should look out for other residents and report suspicious activity. The fires will be discussed at Wednesday night's crime watch Christmas party.

Glassport police Chief Howard Kifer said his department is assisting the county in its investigation.

“We're trying to figure out the basis behind it,” he said.

A resident, who did not want his name released, said he believes the fires were caused by juveniles.

“It's probably kids,” he said. “Twelve- to 14-year-olds, if I had to guess. There's always something around here.”

Glassport Citizen's Hose Fire Co. No. 1 was assisted by Dravosburg VFC, McKeesport Fire Department, Jefferson 885 VFC and Clairton VFC. Fire companies in West Mifflin and White Oak were on standby.

Lewis said a report of a possible fire was along Peach Alley. That call was investigated by Lincoln police and McKeesport firefighters, but nothing was found.

Michael DiVittorio is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1965, or