Fire Guts Pennsylvania Body Shop

McKEESPORT, Pa. --

The Allegheny County fire marshal is investigating the cause of a heavy fire that destroyed a McKeesport auto body shop overnight.

Firefighters were called to the Ziebart shop in the 400 block of Eden Park Boulevard shortly before 1 a.m. Tuesday.

The fire reached two alarms within 30 minutes. Even five hours after the initial call, firefighters were still hosing down hot spots. The flames were so intense it caused the building's entire roof to collapse.

The flames and heavy smoke were already pouring from the auto shop when fire crews arrived.

Rick Duttine watched as the business he spent the last 26 years building went up in smoke.

"I'm devastated. But I'm truly happy that nobody was hurt -- no firemen, no one like that was hurt," said Duttine.

In just hours the building and all its contents, including six vehicles, were gone.

Hazmat crews were also on hand to prevent chemicals inside the auto shop from leaking into the water system.

"We had electrical problems when we first got here. We had wires down on the front street which hindered our operation. And then the condition of the building warranted us not going inside, so we had to do a defensive operation for the outside," said McKeesport Deputy Fire Chief Ed Harmon.

Water and smoke damaged the building next door to the auto shop -- a workout studio Dana Sandmeyer had been hoping to open next month.

"I can't believe the whole building is gone. And like I said, I can't believe the whole entire building was taken away, and our building was literally three feet away and it wasn't even touched, so we're very blessed," Sandmeyer said.

But for Ziebart employees, the fire means looking for work a week before Christmas.

"It's rough. There's not really much you can do. Just hope to find another job, I guess," said Ziebart employee Jason Heckman.

"Material things can be replaced. I'm looking at this building and another building and hope to be back in business by the end of the week," Duttine said.

No one was hurt in the fire. The cause of the blaze remains under investigation.

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