State Fire Marshal Investigates VFW Fire

A cooler (center of photo) is a suspect in causing the fire at the VFW on Bailey Avenue in Pattonville on Tuesday morning. The State Fire Marshal estimated the loss at near $100,000.

Pennsylvania State Police Fire Marshal Trooper Duwayne Baird conducted an investigation yesterday following a fire at the Ford City VFW Post 4843 that caused damage to the bar area.

An automated fire alarm sounded at 3:45 AM Tuesday from the Post home at 2125 Bailey Avenue in Pattonville. When firefighters arrived, smoke was coming out of the building.  The fire was contained to the bar area. Except for smoke damage, the banquet hall and upstairs apartment were not affected.

Baird spoke with the Kittanning Paper as he concluded his investigation.

“It appears like it starts in the center of the bar area behind the bar. I can’t rule out an electrical fire at this point,” he said.

Baird pulled surveillance video to examine the room just before the fire started to determine if anyone was in the building at that time.

“I’m trying to rule out a suspicious fire. My biggest concern is whether or not we have a crime here and I think (the video is) going to shed a lot of light on it. I don’t really suspect (foul play) at this point for the fact that when the fire department arrives, the doors were all secure. The Quarter Master shows up, unlocks the door. The doors were locked/secured and there was no broken windows. There was no signs of any forced entry, so that’s all positive to me.   But that video surveillance, yeah that’s customary – when it’s available to look at, that can tell it all right there.”

Early reports yesterday suggested that a cooler malfunctioned, but Baird would not comment.

“That would be speculation. A lot of that damage is in and around that cooler. It’s going to take an electrical engineer to be able to go through the components of that stuff to really be able to say for sure if that’s what caused it. But I can’t rule that out.”

Baird said that he has talked to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, and didn’t think there would be a further investigation from them. He said an investigation by a private insurance investigator and an electrical engineer will be time-consuming before cleanup and renovations can take place.

“There are still a lot of steps in this process here,” he said.

Baird said there is some minor structural damage and estimated renovations to be as much as $100,000.

“It is pretty much a room and contents fire in the bar area. Structurally we have some damage to the ceiling joist above the bar area, but structurally it’s pretty good.

From the outside Tuesday afternoon, no one would realize that the inside bar room had been damaged by fire Tuesday morning.

Manor Township Fire Department Captain Jim McAfoose assisted Baird with lighting, moving items around, and taping off the building to visitors. McAfoose described what he saw when he arrived yesterday morning.

“There was still fire in around the bar, so our crew and a crew from Ford Cliff got in with the hose line and got it knocked down pretty quick the fire was still remaining in there. And then after that, it was clearing the smoke out. Everyone here did a good job. It was a pretty seamless operation. Everybody worked smoothly together.”

Baird turned the investigation over to insurance investigators.

“This (investigation) is going to be driven mostly from a private sector after I leave today unless I see something, which I’m not anticipating,” Baird said.

VFW Quarter-Master Don King estimated it would be several months before the Post home would be able to be re-opened.