Category: Local News

Faulty Electrical Likely Led to Manor Township House Fire

Chris Fetterman of Manor Township watches as firefighters battle a fire that destroyed his house along Iseman Hill Road. The fire began at approximately 4:15PM and rekindled several times and during the night.

The initial dispatch was for fire response by Manor Township, Ford Cliff and Ford City, but after it was a confirmed working structure fire, Kittanning Hose Company #1, #4 and the Rapid Intervention Team from Kittanning Hose Company #6 along with Kittanning Township and Rayburn Township were activated for increased manpower.

By Jonathan Weaver

The American Red Cross is assisting a Manor Township family whose house was destroyed in a fire yesterday afternoon.

The fire started about 4:15PM at 114 Iseman Hill Road – a dead-end street off of Stitt Hollow Road – in Manor Township.

Homeowners Chris Fetterman and wife, Christi, were traveling to his mother’s house in Vandergrift when they were notified of the fire and were not injured, nor were their sons.

“Everything was completely fine when we left,” Fetterman said. “I have no idea what happened. My dryer quit working, so we figured we would just go down to my mom’s to do the laundry.”

Fetterman found about the fire through his son’s social media account.

“Actually, I learned about it through Facebook. The neighbor girl (messaged) my son and it said ‘Your house is on fire’ and I said ‘What? You’re kidding me.’ They sent a picture and I was like, ‘We gotta go.’”

The message and photo was sent by Tiffany Iseman, a student at Ford City High School and Lenape Tech in Manor Township, to Fetterman’s son, Brendan. Iseman, of downtown Ford City, was visiting her grandparents, Alvin and Sally “Kathy” Iseman, next door.

“We didn’t know any other way to get a hold of them. I figured if nothing else, I took pictures to show them,” Tiffany said. “I’ve been friends with Brendan since before kindergarten.”

The pair sat below a large tree with other family members watching firefighters battle the blaze.

“I don’t know what I would do if I lost everything,” Kathy said between tears. “I know they weren’t gone five minutes.”

Son Tom Iseman, his fiancée Cecilia Pegg and pit bull, Maya, live downstairs of the Iseman home and were nervous the fire could spread to their house via a pine tree.

“We just came here– I brought them some frozen pierogies and brought some downstairs, was getting ready to cook them and Dad said about the smoke – you could see it coming out of the upper-windows – asked if the kids were playing with smoke bombs or something. I said ‘No, that’s a fire.’ So we got on the phone right away,” Tom said.

Tom and Cecilia tried to battle the flames with a garden hose from their yard, spraying the upper windows and attempting to reach the front porch.

“You could hear popping everywhere,” Tom said. “It’s a nice neighborhood – they need help, we help them out; we need help, they’re here to help us out.

“It’s really sad.”

Smoke also quickly filled the neighboring residence, so they closed all the windows, a baby out of the residence to a ventilated vehicle and took pet cats downstairs. Nobody was injured.

Manor Township Assistant Fire Chief Chad Evans led the attack, and said Fetterman told him of electrical problems scattered throughout the house – likely the cause of the fire.

“We’re 99 percent sure it was electrical,” Assistant Chief Evans said. “They were fumigating the house at the time, so with the aerosol, that could’ve increased the fire.

“The house was a total loss.”

Assistant Chief Evans said firefighters contended with water problems (due to only one fire hydrant in the vicinity and the next-closest being about 1,400 feet away) and access issues.

“Access was very poor – with the second floor totally gone, there was no way we could gain access other than getting on the roof of the first floor,” Assistant Chief Evans said.

Firefighters sprayed water into the second floor and entered the residence by cutting a hole in the upstairs with a chainsaw and axe. Firefighters eventually cut through the top roof.

Manor Township Police Officer Cippel interviewed Fetterman for the incident report, but was also on-scene in case he was needed for assistance.

“Anything I can do for these guys, that’s why I’m here,” Officer Cippel said.

The initial dispatch was for fire response by Manor Township, Ford Cliff and Ford City, but after it was a confirmed working structure fire, Kittanning Hose Company #1, #4 and the Rapid Intervention Team from Kittanning Hose Company #6 along with Kittanning Township and Rayburn Township were activated for increased manpower.

Kittanning Hose Company #6 and multiple Ford City EMS crews set-up a rehabilitation tent area away from the residence.

Fire crews from Bethel Township, Freeport and Rural Valley were among those covering other incidents for firefighters who responded yesterday afternoon.

The family has homeowner’s insurance, but Fetterman was worried it might not cover family mementos.

The Fettermans lived in that residence since 2004.

About 11:15PM, 9-1-1 dispatchers alerted the initial three responding fire companies of a rekindle at the site. Ford Cliff volunteers responded to the scene and reported smoke during their 45 minute response.

Fire crews were also alerted to a rekindle early this morning.

Local School Budgets Receive Funding Spike

Senator White speaking before school board members (KP File Photo)

School districts in Armstrong and Indiana Counties – as well as across the state – will see increases in state support for the upcoming school year under the Fiscal Year 2014-15 budget recently signed into law, according to Senator Don White.

Overall, House Bill 2328 – which was approved by Governor Tom Corbett two weeks ago – allocates more than $10 billion in state funding for support of Pennsylvania’s public schools. This represents an increase of $305 million over last year – the highest amount in Commonwealth history. The final vote by the Senate passed 26-24.

“This was a very difficult budget year as we faced lackluster revenues and steep increases in pension and service costs,” Senator White said. “In spite of that, I am pleased we were able to provide additional funding for local school districts. Special education funding had not been increased for several years and the Ready to Learn program provides some flexibility for school districts to invest the state money in areas that show demonstrated positive results in helping students to succeed.

Armstrong School District especially will see the largest increase across the nearly-20 regional school districts – nearly $500,000 toward special education and Ready to Learn Block Grant funding that supports programs and services to increase student achievement.

Schools can use their Ready to Learn Block Grant funding to enhance learning opportunities for students through initiatives, such as ensuring that all students are academically performing at grade level by third grade in both reading and math, supplemental instruction in biology, English language arts and algebra I and Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education, among others.

Armstrong School District now receives more than $33.5 million in special education, Basic Education and Ready to Learn funding.

Senator White cautioned taxpayers that this funding lift may not last forever, but that this is a start.

“The vast majority of the school districts I represent continue to experience declining enrollments, meaning the 2014-15 budget provides them with more funds to educate fewer students,” Senator White continued. “They will all receive increases in overall state funding complements of the Pennsylvania taxpayer. However, I continue to caution all the districts I represent that this approach may not last forever. Pressure continues to mount in an effort to change the way Pennsylvania funds their schools to a per-pupil formula. Nevertheless, I will fight hard to ensure the districts I represent are not financially-harmed because of declining enrollment.”

The budget also provides $1.05 billion for special education, an increase of $20 million – the first increase in six years. This additional funding will be distributed to schools based on categories of support for students with disabilities as outlined by the Special Education Funding Commission.

Apollo-Ridge, Freeport and Leechburg Area School Districts in Armstrong County also received funding increases in special education and Ready to Learn funding, but all received less than $135,000.