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Fire in Vandergrift labeled suspicious

posted Nov 18, 2016, 9:56 PM by Joseph Gray


Vandergrift firefighters respond to a reported house fire at 213 Longfellow St. on Thursday, Nov. 10, 2016. Only a couch ended up being on fire inside the vacant building.
Vandergrift firefighters respond to a reported house fire at 213 Longfellow St. on Thursday, Nov. 10, 2016. Only a couch ended up being on fire inside the vacant building.
Photo by Sydney Davis | Tribune-Review
    
As Matthew Bockhouse walked up Vandergrift's Longfellow Street with his dinner Thursday night, he smelled smoke and feared his apartment building was on fire.

Instead, the smoke was coming from a fire in the vacant building next door — just five doors down from two commercial buildings that were destroyed by a conflagration two weeks ago.

Bockhouse called 911 and alerted the other tenant in his building, which is just 4 feet from the 21⁄2-story, white-sided house that was on fire at 213 Longfellow St.

Vandergrift No. 2 fire Chief Steve Potoka said the flames were were traced to a couch in the front room. Potoka said there was only minor damage to the room because firefighters quickly extinguished the small fire.

He deemed the fire — reported just after 8 p.m. — suspicious and said a state police fire marshal will investigate. The building is not connected to utilities and has been vacant for years, Potoka said.

Neighbors said squatters have used the building.

Meanwhile, Bockhouse sat across the street in the parking lot of Byers Taxi Service and ate his sandwich, surrounded by the grocery bags he'd been carrying home from Sprankle's Market when he spotted the fire. He wasn't too worried about his food spoiling — the only perishable item was the frozen turkey he'd bought for Thanksgiving dinner.

Liz Hayes is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at lhayes@tribweb.com.

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