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Police suspect arson in Kittanning fire

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By Mitch Fryer
Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2012

KITTANNING — A state police dog trained in accelerant detection sniffed out the source of a suspicious fire that broke out in an apartment building late Monday night.

"The dog was able to pinpoint an accelerant," said borough Fire Marshal Earl "Buzz" Kline.

Kline said the fire started on carpeting in the middle of a vacant apartment in the basement of the building and the discovery led fire officials to believe it may be arson.

The state police fire marshal from Butler and two state police arson investigators from New Castle, one of them part of a K-9 unit, were brought in overnight to investigate.

Samples were sent to the state crime lab to determine the type of accelerant used and possible source of ignition.

"It's a very sophisticated process that will take a week or more," Kline said.

Kittanning police are handling the investigation.

Kittanning Hose Companies 1, 4 and 6 and Rayburn Fire Department responded at 10:36 p.m. to the report of smoke filling a four-story building at 363 Arch St. at the intersection with North Grant Avenue.

About eight to 10 families were safely evacuated from their apartments and were able to go back in several hours later. There were no reports of injuries.

Kline said fire damage was contained to the one basement apartment. The rest of the building had minor smoke damage throughout, he said.

There was no structural damage to the building although firefighters did break down two doors and break some windows to gain access upon arriving.

"It could have been worse. Our guys did a fantastic job of isolating the fire and quickly taking care of the situation," Kline said.

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