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Arson, suicide suspected by retiree

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By Bill Vidonic
Wednesday, March 28, 2012

A retired Pittsburgh firefighter apparently shot himself to death on Wednesday morning, apparently after setting his Butler County home on fire, state police said.

A passing motorist spotted the fire and found David L. Helbling, 62, in his pickup truck parked outside the log cabin-style home in Clay, police said. A pistol and some personal belongings were inside the truck.

State police and West Sunbury fire Chief Reid Campbell said the motorist reported the fire around 10 a.m. State police said they believe Helbling set the house on fire, though a state fire marshal continued to investigate.

Authorities initially were concerned someone else might have been in the house. But firefighters tore apart the smoldering remains and searched the rubble. They found no one.

Pittsburgh fire Chief Darryl Jones said Helbling, who worked in a station on the city's North Side, retired as a captain in January.

Butler County tax records show that Helbling bought the house and nearly 13 acres of land in December 2010 for about $250,000.

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