Brother, sister escape fire, but Murrysville home severely damaged

Chuck Biedka
| Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Flames ravaged a Murrysville house Monday afternoon, destroyedmany historic artifacts, and forced a brother and sister from their home.

Carl Patty, president of the Murrysville Historical Preservation Society, was treated for a hand injury. His sister, Shelby, also was checked at a local hospital even as the thick black and gray smoke column towered more than 100 feet into the frigid air.

Their beagle-mix, Snoopy, was being checked by a veterinarian Monday night, too.

Murrysville fire Chief Al Dover said that house at 4199 Logan Ferry Road was destroyed. A state police deputy fire marshal was scheduled on Tuesday to investigate the fire's cause.

A damage estimate wasn't available.

Patty collected historical artifacts, including guns, furs, and historical books and documents. He regularly hosts historical presentations throughout the community.

Jackie Stemfer, secretary of the historical society, said his private collection likely is destroyed, including a large amount of Murrysville history.

The fire broke out at about 3:20 p.m. It took about two hours to extinguish, and crews spent several more hours there in an attempt to prevent the rubble from rekindling.

Logan Ferry Road was blocked well into Monday night, and firefighters were called back to the scene shortly after 10:30 p.m.

Soon after the fire started, small explosions were reported when ammunition cooked off inside the house.

“There was no natural-gas explosion,” Dover said.

Firefighters from seven companies had to lay nearly half a mile of hose to deliver water from a hydrant to the house. They also used tanker trucks.

The volunteers were hampered for a while by a live electrical wire that fell from a transformer.

Snow and ice, along with temperatures that started at about 20 degrees and dipped much colder after sunset, also were challenges.

“Once the power line was down, we could move in safely to reach the house. Sadly, it's probably going to be a total loss,” Dover said.

“But the people didn't receive serious injuries, and no firefighters have been hurt,” he said at about 6 p.m.

Karen Tribou, owner of the nearby Plumline Nurseries, said she didn't hear any explosions.

“I just heard sirens, and I'm relieved that they're OK,” she said, about the residents. “They are really nice people who have lived here a long time.”

She said Carl Patty is a retired postal employee.Even after Carl Patty and his sister were taken to a hospital just after 4 p.m., Snoopy ran up and down the ice-slicked driveway and refused to walk to firefighters. After about 90 minutes, the shivering dog was caught and brought up the hill in a sled-like rescue basket pulled by Plum ambulance personnel.

An emergency medical technician comforted the dog as she was put in an ambulance to be warmed before being taken to a veterinarian to be checked.

The hydrant hose was turned off at about 5:30 p.m., and volunteer firefighters from numerous companies started the arduous task of rolling up more than 1,000 feet of fire hose before returning them to their respective fire houses to dry out.

“We'll have a late night,” Monroeville No. 5 Deputy Chief G. Fred Gerstacker said.

Daveen Rae Kurutz contributed to this story. Chuck Biedka is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4711 or

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