Mon Valley fires under investigation

November 15, 2012
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Wayne E. Ray / For the Observer-Reporter Firefighters work at the scene of a blaze early Thursday at a vacant house on Second Street in California. No injuries were reportered. A state police fire marshal was called to investigate.
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Wayne E. Ray / For the Observer-Reporter
A dog named Charlie receives oxygen after being rescued by a West Brownsville firefighter from an apartment building blaze on Furlong Avenue in Roscoe early Thursday. Charlie was expected to be OK. Order a Print

A state police fire marshal is investigating two back-to-back fires early Thursday in the Mon Valley, including one that displaced 27 residents of a Roscoe apartment building.

No one was injured in the 4:30 a.m. fire at Central Apartments or while firefighters in neighboring California Borough battled an earlier blaze at a vacant house, California fire Chief Tom Hartley said.

“It was a very strange night. No sleep,” Hartley said.

He said nearly 80 firefighters from seven departments responded to the 1:45 a.m. fire at the frame house owned by Joe Ruffalo at 72 Second St. in California. Borough officials were attempting Friday to locate an address for Ruffalo, he said.

The fire “was fully involved when we got there,” Hartley said.

He said flames melted siding on two neighboring apartment buildings. Borough police said one apartment building had to be evacuated. A state police fire marshal was called to the scene to investigate because of what police called the “suspicious nature” of the blaze.

The firefighters were sitting around talking after putting that fire out when they were summoned to the apartment building in Roscoe at 600 Furlong Ave.

Tenant Carina Honeygosky said firefighters told her the fire started in a space heater in an apartment across the hall from where she resided.

“The smoke woke me up,” said Honeygosky, adding that she also heard a smoke alarm sound in a hallway.

The brick and concrete block building, she said, appeared to have suffered mostly smoke and water damage.

A Roscoe fire official said the blaze was quickly brought under control because Washington Township Fire Department was on standby in Roscoe while Roscoe firefighters were in California.

A deaf man and another with diabetes had to be assisted out of the building, he said.

The American Red Cross assisted 14 adult residents of the apartment building and three pets by providing 10 families with food and shelter, a Red Cross spokeswoman said.

Roscoe and California firefighters were assisted by those from North, South and West Brownsville and Richeyville and Bentleyville, Hartley said.

Scott Beveridge is a North Charleroi native who has lived most of his life in nearby Rostraver Township. He is a general assignments reporter focusing on investigative journalism and writing stories about the mid-Mon Valley. He has a bachelor's degree from Indiana University of Pennsylvania and a master's from Duquesne University. Scott spent three weeks in Vietnam in 2004 as a foreign correspondent under an International Center for Journalists fellowship.

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