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'Suspicious' fire at Belle Vernon house

| Monday, Dec. 17, 2012, 12:07 a.m.

A fire that nearly destroyed an unoccupied Belle Vernon house early Saturday morning has been deemed “suspicious” and is under investigation by police and a fire marshal.

Belle Vernon fire Chief Rich Saxberg said the blaze at 134 State St. started around 6 a.m. Saturday. He rated the structure a “total loss.”

The rental property had been unoccupied for at least a week, Saxberg said.

“It's suspicious; that's all I can really say at this point,” Saxberg said. “A fire marshal from Uniontown is investigating.”

He referred all other questions to police. Southwest Regional Police Chief John Hartman said Sunday he is conducting an open investigation.

“It was very involved,” he said. “There are certain issues that still have to be investigated here.”

Even though firefighters arrived within minutes, the structure was fully engulfed, Saxberg said, as flames poured from the walls and roof, piercing the early morning darkness.

“When we got the call, I could actually see (the fire) from my window,” said Saxberg, who lives nearly two blocks away. “Because of the location on the hill, it was tough to get to, but we had it knocked down pretty quick. It took about a half hour to get it under control and we were pretty much done with it within three hours.”

Belle Vernon, North Belle Vernon, Fayette City, Washington Township and Charleroi fire departments all responded to the scene. Stockdale, Monessen Hilltop and Perryopolis were all on standby.

Rick Bruni Jr. is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at rbruni@tribweb.com or 724-684-2635.

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