Third suspicious fire in week raises worry in Atlas
ATLAS - The third suspicious fire in the past week to hit this Mount Carmel Township village has police, supervisors and citizens concerned about the safety of the community.
The latest blaze, at 3:20 a.m. Thursday, destroyed three garages and damaged a fourth at the rear of the 200 block of East Saylor Street. The fire also resulted in another firefighter being injured.
Although he wouldn't confirm the three fires since April 26 are arson, Mount Carmel Township Fire Marshal and Police Chief Brian Hollenbush said they are similar in nature. He noted all three fires started during the early morning hours.
"We are definitely concerned about the fires and we plan on putting extra patrols throughout the village," he said. "We want everyone to be cognitive of their surroundings and to call 911 if they observe any suspicious activity."
Hollenbush said Mount Carmel Township Patrolman David Stamets, Mount Carmel Cpl. David Donkochik and Patrolman William Adamski had just patrolled the area near Thursday's fire about 5 or 10 minutes before the blaze was discovered.
Hollenbush said it started in a two-story garage owned
by Steve Nicola, 45, of 213 E. Saylor St., and quickly spread to adjoining garages owned by Eugene Habowski, of 215 E. Saylor St., and Kevin Moncavage, of 217 E. Saylor St., and another nearby garage owned by Karen Gerrity, of 209 E. Saylor St.
The fire destroyed the garages owned by Nicola, Habowski and Gerrity, and caused moderate to extensive damage to Moncavage's garage. Siding was melted on the rear of Nicola's residence and another garage across the alley.
All the garages face Liberty Street, an alley near Mahogany Street.
The garage owners are insured, according to Hollenbush.
Fall through floor
Jeff Kays, a firefighter with Mount Carmel Area Rescue Squad, suffered knee and back injuries and facial bruises when the wooden floor inside Nicola's garage collapsed. Kays was treated at the scene and told police he planned to seek additional treatment on his own.
Hollenbush said he has discussed the fires with township supervisors, who are concerned about the possibility that an arsonist is setting the fires. Supervisors agreed to the extra patrols, particularly during the late evening and early morning hours.
The police chief said supervisors also will have township workers board up vacant, rundown properties in the village that have windows, doors and siding missing in an effort to keep trespassers away.
Firefighters from Atlas, Anthracite and Strong fire companies brought the blaze under control in about 40 minutes. Personnel remained at the scene until 5:30 a.m.
Also assisting were members of Mount Carmel Area Rescue Squad, Shamokin Emergency Squad and AREA Services Ambulance.
Assisting Hollenbush in his investigation are Mount Carmel Lieutenant and Fire Investigator Christopher Buhay and Jason Zimmerman, operations officer for the Northumberland County Department of Public Safety. Zimmerman provided a hydrocarbon detector at the scene that detects combustible liquids.
At 1:23 a.m. Wednesday, fire caused extensive damage to an unoccupied two-story home at 524 W. Girard St. and left Randy Merlo, 47, of 526 W. Girard St., temporarily homeless. Strong Fire Chief Tim Shicowich, who was battling the fire, was injured when a 5-inch supply line blew off an engine and struck him in the legs.
A fire at 1:15 a.m. Friday, April 26, destroyed two garages at the rear of the 100 block of West Girard Street owned by Lee Britton and his son, Laramy.