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Glassport seeking help with fire probe

| Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2012, 3:12 a.m.

Investigators are seeking community assistance in finding out who set several fires in Glassport last week.

“We need the community's involvement to try and solve this stuff,” Allegheny County Deputy Fire Marshal Don Brucker said Monday. “If somebody has something that they believe they saw, or pertinent information they need to call us.”

The first fire was called in on Dec. 3 around 11 p.m. at the condemned St. Cecilia's Church near the intersection of Ohio Avenue and Eighth Street.

Another set of fires arose early the following morning in garages along the 900 block of Cherry Alley.

A truck was destroyed and two cars were severely damaged.

“They are being investigated as incendiary fires, which is an arson fire,” Brucker said. “Arson is a criminal charge placed on somebody that sets an incendiary fire.”

An open carport, an enclosed carport, a garage, two residential structures and three vehicles were damaged in the Cherry Alley fires, Brucker said.

The church fire started in a stairwell on the Eighth Street side.

The long-standing Catholic church and school has been closed for more than a decade, and is slated to be demolished.

The borough acquired a $215,000 Community Infrastructure and received a Tourism Fund grant last year to bring the structure to the ground.

In February, Twin Rivers Council of Governments accepted a bid of $204,000 from Burgettstown-based A.W. McNabb LLC to demolish the church, which has been subject to vandalism and general deterioration throughout the years.

“That building has been unsecured for some period of time,” Brucker said. “That's a pretty big building. We've been in there before for different incidents. Plus anytime we have fires in the area, we try to look at all the vacant properties down there just to make sure there's nothing else set on them.”

Glassport fire Chief Wayne 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.

Brucker reported a door of a small detached garage was set on fire within a close proximity to the other fires.

“Evidence was collected at all three scenes, and we're just waiting to hear back the analysis from the crime lab,” Brucker said. “Hopefully that will be some time very, very soon.”

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.

Glassport firefighters and police and Allegheny County police are assisting the investigation.

Anyone with information about the fires can call the fire marshal's anonymous tip line at 412-473-2776.

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

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