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Burglary preceded arson

| Saturday, Jan. 7, 2006

A Beaver County fire station was destroyed by an arsonist who might have been trying to cover up a burglary, state police arson investigators ruled Friday.

The New Galilee Fire Department was destroyed by a fire that began shortly after 4 a.m. Thursday. Yesterday, volunteer firefighters milled around outside while investigators sifted through the debris, which included two fire trucks and two ambulances.

"I can't imagine why anyone would want to do this," said Keith Drabick, 33, who works for Northwestern EMS, which owned the ambulances. "They're endangering the lives of everyone in the community."

The station was burglarized before the fire was set in the engine room, said Trooper Robert Ryhal. Evidence shows the station was broken into, said Ryhal, who declined to elaborate.

Fire departments from as far away as New Jersey have called fire Chief Jim Mitchell offering assistance, trucks and equipment. But Mitchell said the department has nowhere to store equipment.

Closer to home, the White, Ohioville and Big Knob fire departments also offered trucks, Mitchell said.

Today, Mitchell is traveling to President, Venango County, to pick up a donated 1979 Ford pumper truck.

"I'm getting that one just so we have something for now," he said. "But I don't want to take anything else until we have a place to store it."

Damage was estimated at more than $1.2 million.

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