200-year-old farmhouse destroyed in Chartiers fire

July 6, 2014

No one was injured, but several pets died when a fast-moving fire swept through a 200-year-old farmhouse in Chartiers Township Saturday night.

Michelle Venneri was sleeping in a front room of the house at 128 Plum Run Road just before 9 p.m. when she awakened to the smell of smoke.

“She started towards the kitchen and could see heavy, black smoke,” said township police Officer Charles Stevenson.

Venneri, who has lived in the home for about 20 years according to Chartiers fire Chief Vince Altieri, started calling for her roommate, Becky Hess, who was outside trimming weeds. Hess only recently moved into the farmhouse.

Stevenson said he arrived at the house within four minutes of getting the call. When he arrived, the house was already engulfed in flames.

“They didn’t have much time to get anything out,” Stevenson said.

The two were able to rescue two dogs but several pets, including cats, perished in the fire. Altieri and Stevenson said the two women escaped with only the clothing on their backs.

“They lost everything,” Altieri said.

The fire was so intense, firefighters had to battle the blaze from outside the house, the fire chief said. Chartiers firefighters, assisted by firefighters from Houston as well as Mt. Pleasant and North Strabane townships, were on the scene for about three hours. Altieri said a tanker shuttle was used to haul water to the scene.

Chartiers firefighters were called back several times Sunday to extinguish hot spots.

Trooper Steven Thompson, the state police fire marshal, was called to the scene. Altieri said the cause does not appear suspicious but because of the damage, the cause may not be determined.

The home is owned by Leonard and Maureen Sinko of Manahawkin, N.J.

Kathie O. Warco has covered the police beat and transportation for the Observer-Reporter for more than 25 years. She graduated from Duquesne University with a degree in journalism.

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