Antiques lost in Elizabeth Township fire

| Thursday, April 11, 2013, 3:51 a.m.

Smoke still rose from several points of origin a day after a fast-moving fire leveled Earl and Janice Beatty's house at 530 Simpson Howell Road in Elizabeth Township.

“We had a fire about 33 years ago, the same place,” Earl Beatty said on Wednesday from a cousin's home down the hill, where he and his wife are staying. “It was a total loss, too.”

On Wednesday morning, smoke poured from the brick fireplace that remained when the rest of the house and all the couples' possessions inside disintegrated in flames.

“We had a houseful of antiques,” Beatty said. “We lost $100,000 in antiques.”

Some of them were a handmade bow-front dresser from 1856, three “Gone With The Wind” lamps and 250 baby dolls belonging to Janice Beatty that dated back to the 1800s, including a German doll valued at $10,000.

Clarifying an earlier report, Beatty said two dogs did perish in the blaze, though a third was rescued.

“One was a coonhound, the other was a beagle,” Beatty said. “The smoke got to them. I don't think they suffered at all.”

Fire still was burning Wednesday afternoon in what appeared to be a pit to the right of the house. Passersby saw it from along Wolfe Drive, up the hill from Simpson Howell. A tanker truck was called to the scene at 7:45 p.m. to manage hot spots.

“My wife and I are both doing fine,” said Beatty, an auctioneer. “She's OK, she's on the computer.”

Janice Beatty recently was in the hospital for a heart problem. Machines to provide oxygen were in the house at the time of the fire, but Beatty said “they're not the type that blow up.

“It helps you breathe if you need it,” Beatty said. “She hadn't been using it for a month.”

Wind continued to whip up the smoke and brought down a large limb from one of the trees charred amid 3 acres of brush fires also triggered by Tuesday's sudden inferno.

While Allegheny County fire marshals could not be reached for details on Wednesday, Beatty said he believes there was an electrical cause for the fire.

“I think it was a battery charger I had,” the auctioneer said. “I was getting ready to go fishing.”

He said he was charging a boat battery in a shed “jammed full of stuff” when the fire broke out.

A few miles away at Allegheny County Airport, the National Weather Service station measured winds gusting to 22 mph at the hour when that fire forced the Beattys from their home.

As noontime approached on Wednesday, County Airport's anemometer clocked gusts of up to 29 mph. The air temperature was the same as at the time of the fire, 77 degrees.

Among the items that still are visible on the Beatty property are two front-yard plastic posts, marking petroleum pipelines that once were part of a Texas Eastern transmission network.

“It was a good thing there weren't any leaks,” Beatty said, though he stressed there was “no danger,” that the lines were buried 10 feet underground.

The Beattys plan to rebuild.

“I'd like to get a log house,” he said.

Patrick Cloonan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1967, or

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