McDonald municipal garage burns

June 16, 2014
Twisted metal was nearly all that remained after a fire gutted the McDonald Borough garage Monday. - Francesca Sacco / Observer-Reporter Order a Print

With McSummerfest right around the corner, McDonald Borough Councilman Thomas McQuillan stood distraught before the charred remnants of the borough’s municipal garage.

Just after noon Monday, the garage went up in flames, destroying the building and thousands of dollars’ worth of equipment stored inside.

“The main thing is everyone is safe,” McQuillan said. “The fire departments came as soon as they were called, and I appreciate them getting here so quick. But we lost everything we had. It’s a total loss.”

McQuillan estimates the damage at about $700,000, if not more.

“We lost two trucks, mowers, a cart,” he said as he tried to comprehend the loss.

At least 10 fire companies and close to 100 firefighters responded to the blaze. McDonald’s second assistant fire chief, Rich Phillips, said the flames were sky-high when they arrived. He said firefighters used water, then foam to extinguish the flames. A state fire marshal was called to investigate.

Early speculation indicated the blaze could have been caused by welding equipment.

“An employee was in there doing work with a torch,” McQuillan said.

He said two men were in the building at the time. Both got out safely, and no injuries were reported.

Dale Markovich, an employee at McDonald Automotive, said he heard a hissing sound and a loud pop before the fire began. McDonald Automotive sits next door to the municipal building in the 300 block of East Ohara Street.

“When I came outside, the building was on fire,” Markovich said. “I saw a guy run out. It’s lucky no one got hurt.”

Andrea Ohler, who also works at McDonald Automotive, said black smoke filled the sky. She was concerned that cars parked nearby also would catch fire.

“I was scared,” she said.

McQuillan said a special borough meeting will be held Tuesday evening to discuss the damage and preparations for McSummerfest, which is supposed to kick off June 28. McSummerfest is a community event hosted each year by McDonald Volunteer Fire Department.

In the meantime, McQuillan said Robinson Township officials kindly offered the use of their equipment, but he understands they have needs of their own.

“We’re very appreciative, but they have a township to take care of, too.”

Francesca Sacco joined the Observer-Reporter as a staff writer in November 2013, and covers the Washington County Courthouse and education. Prior to working with the Observer-Reporter, Francesca was a staff writer with a Gannett paper in Ohio. She graduated from Point Park University with a dual bachelor’s degree in print and broadcast journalism.

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