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PSP: Big Run fire is arson, attempted murder

July 29, 2011

The fire Tuesday that destroyed this house on Caroline Street in Big Run has been ruled arson and attempted homicide by the Punxsutawney-based Pennsylvania State Police fire marshal. (File photo by Larry McGuire/The Punxsutawney Spirit)

BIG RUN — The Punxsutawney-based Pennsylvania State Police fire marshal has ruled that a fire that destroyed a home in Big Run Tuesday as arson and attempted homicide.

Cpl. Charles E. Gross, Troop C fire marshal, said the fire that destroyed the home owned by James Stellabuto Sr. on Caroline Street began outside the garage in the rear of the building sometime between 2 a.m. and 2:47 a.m. Wednesday.

Gross said whoever started this latest fire not only would be charged with arson, but also with attempted homicide, since the owner was at home when the fire broke out.

Stellabuto escaped the flames uninjured, Gross said. The total amount of damage to the structure and a vehicle inside the garage is about $160,000.

Big Run Fire Department Chief Todd Peace said when firefighters arrived on-scene, flames were coming from the garage, and heavy smoke was showing from the rest of the house.

In recent months, Gross has been investigating numerous fires in the Big Run area that have later been determined to be arson or have undetermined causes, including the June 19 fire at Big Run Carpet, which destroyed the business.

Several samples of accelerant identified by an arson dog at the scene have not yet come back from the state police lab, Gross said.

Also, Feb. 18, the former Little Canada Bar & Grill on Filtering Plant Road was destroyed by a fire. The cause was listed as undetermined, he said.

Gross said he’s investigating all other suspicious fires over the last year in the Big Run area — including fires that occurred at two abandoned buildings on Hartzfeld Road and several brush fires — as if they are connected.

“I’m treating all these fires as if there is some connection, and I’ll let the evidence lead me to whoever is responsible,” Gross said.

Anyone with information or who might have seen anything at any of these fire scenes should call Gross at PSP-Punxsutawney at 938-0510. All information will remain confidential.

Meanwhile, Gross said the origin of the fire that destroyed a home located on Route 36 in Oliveburg Saturday, June 18, will remain undetermined.

Gross said he is unable to determine the cause of that fire, which gutted the structure except for the basement.

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