Fire marshal says she can’t pinpoint exact causes for recent blazes

PUNXSUTAWNEY — The causes of two major fires in the Punxsutawney area — both in the same week — have been ruled undetermined.

Julie Clark, Punxsutawney-based Pennsylvania State Police fire marshal, reported Tuesday that the investigation into both fires was completed with the same result.

She said a fire that destroyed a two-family home along Graffius Avenue at 10:45 a.m. Nov. 2, owned by Richard Shaffer of Rossiter, was fully involved when the alarm came in.

Clark said the cause into the heavily damaged duplex was undetermined.

“I investigated the cause with insurance investigators, and we could not determine precisely how the fire began,” Clark said, and that the location of where the fire started — at the corner of the house near the front porch, according to witnesses — did not lend any clues as to how the blaze began.

“There’s no electric or heating elements in that corner of the house that could’ve ignited the fire,” Clark said.

One of the residents of the home took video with his laptop as he left the burning structure.

According to Punxsutawney Elk Run Fire Chief Bryan Smith, the two-story, wood frame structure was fully involved when firefighters arrived on scene.
Clark also said following an investigation into a Nov. 8 fire at the New Anchor Inn, that the cause has also been deemed undetermined.

“I investigated the cause with several fire investigators, including insurance investigators, and I’m still not sure of the exact cause,” she said, adding that another investigator thought it was possible the fire began in an electric cord connected to a dryer. “I wasn’t convinced that it was the cord, so it is listed as undetermined.”

Owner Dave Setree’s 86-year-old mother, Rose Setree, who lived in an apartment above the restaurant — escaped the flames uninjured.

Rose’s nurse, Carol Stevens, was serving as her caretaker for the evening and got her out of the apartment literally seconds before the flames came up.

Setree said he had finished closing up the restaurant for the night around 10:45 p.m. before going to his shop down the road until 11:45 p.m.

He said at 12:01 a.m., just before retiring for the night, he heard Stevens “laying on the horn,” and saw “smoke pouring out all over the building.”