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Cause of N. Versailles fire a mystery

| Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2014, 3:51 a.m.
Cindy Shegan Keeley | Daily News
First responders from the Fire Department of North Versailles and at eight other communities responded to a fire in a vacant house on East Street in the township late Monday morning.
Cindy Shegan Keeley | Daily News
North Huntingdon EMS director Shane Spielvogle wheels an emergency warming tent up First Street in North Versailles to the scene of a vacant house fire on East Street on Monday.
Cindy Shegan Keeley | Daily News
Heavy brush and trees made it difficult for fire fighters to reach a burning unoccupied house on East Street in North Versailles.
Cindy Shegan Keeley | Daily News
First responders from North Versailles' fire department and at least eight other communities target a blaze in a vacant house on East Street late Monday morning.

Investigators are trying to determine what started a fire in an unoccupied house in North Versailles Township late Monday morning.

Damage to the single-story brick structure along East Street was “pretty significant,” Fire Department of North Versailles Chief Mike Volpe said.

“The whole first floor collapsed down in on it,” the chief said.

No one was hurt in the blaze, which authorities said may have started in the basement of the home.

“Right now the (Allegheny County) fire marshal is looking into it,” Volpe said.

The fire was reported at about 10:30 a.m. and it took crews about 90 minutes to bring it under control.

Volpe said firefighters used a defensive approach because the house was unoccupied.

A resident who lives across the street said that house and two others along the street have been unoccupied for years. The neighbor said someone periodically would look in on the property.

Volpe said the house wasn't empty but it wasn't clear how long it had been since someone had lived there.

It was difficult to see the house from the street because of overgrown trees. Snow and cold temperatures provided an added challenge for fire crews.

North Huntingdon EMS Rescue set up a warming tent at the fire scene and a Port Authority bus was brought in to provide a warming place for first responders.

In addition to township departments, firefighters from North Braddock, Swissvale, Wilmerding, East McKeesport, Turtle Creek, Monroeville, Pitcairn and Glassport responded.

Eric Slagle is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161 ext. 1966, or eslagle@tribweb.com.