Owner of burned Butler Township home in custody Man admits to police that he used 'bath salts'
GIRARDVILLE - The cause of the fire that destroyed a home Thursday in the Rappahannock section of Butler Township remains under investigation.
Girardville firefighters were called just before 7 p.m. to 34 Rapp Road and found the second floor fully engulfed. Due to the steep, unpaved road, fire engines remained at the bottom of the hill and firefighters carried the hoses, ladders and equipment to the scene. The blaze was declared out within an hour.
The property owner, Timothy J. Stephens, was taken into custody in Girardville about the time the fire was discovered.
Girardville fire Chief Frank Zangari said the smoke could be seen from Rangers Hose Company on Ogden Street.
"We could see it from the fire house and it looked like a brush fire and then a few minutes later, the alarm came in," Zangari said. "It had a fairly good start when the fire department got there. The entire second floor was on fire and had gone through the roof. There were all kinds of stories when we first got there, that there were people still inside. We did the best check we could. Butler Township police helped. We were happy at the end that there was nobody inside.
"It's still under investigation, but we believe the homeowner was inside when the fire started. My belief is that it started on the 'A' side (front) of the building," Zangari said.
Zangari confirmed that there was a second fire on the property to the rear of the building.
"I found that one and it was about 20 feet away from the structure," he said. "It was a nice, big crate of all kinds of rubble and metal."
He said the outside fire was not the cause of the structure fire.
"It was definitely two separate fires," Zangari said. "There was also a 3/4-inch black garden hose that ran from the garage out the back of the building and to the second floor that somebody was apparently trying to put water onto the fire, but the hose burned off."
Zangari said township police are also continuing their investigation.
"Beyond criminal charges or even charging him for arson, I can't make that call," he said.
Ashland police Chief Adam J. Bernodin Jr. said Patrolmen Mark O'Hearn and Thomas Weaver received a call to assist Butler Township police with a disturbance in the Rappahannock area and discovered Stephens in the middle of the road near Krick's Automotive, East Mahanoy Avenue, Girardville.
"They rolled into this guy who was without a shirt and shoes, more or less on something," said Bernodin. "Later he admitted, according to the report, that he was on bath salts. The report says that (Stephens) was yelling and combative and he had to be handcuffed. The officers observed a lighter in his hand. He intentionally began banging his head off the inside of the left rear door of the police car. The officers' report said he openly admitted to using bath salts."
At that point, state police arrived since Girardville police were not on duty, and they took Stephens.
"Then Mark and Tom saw smoke. They went up into the bush and found a house on fire," Bernodin said.
According to a press release from Ashland police, state police transported Stephens to Schuylkill Medical Center-South Jackson Street, where he was placed under medical treatment.