Pa. Fire That Seriously Injured Two People Was Arson

Aug. 23--A fire that seriously injured two people at a multiunit residence on Erie's west side early Friday morning was set intentionally, Erie Chief Fire Inspector Guy Santone ruled.

Santone spent much of Friday searching for clues in the charred remains of the building at 453 W. Sixth St.

Police were called to the residence at 3:50 a.m. for a report of a domestic disturbance when they discovered the fire. Fire crews were dispatched to the scene.

The fire seriously injured two people, and forced firefighters and police officers to rescue eight adults and a 2-year-old child from the burning structure.

"We took a couple of samples, and all indications point to it being set intentionally," Santone said late Friday afternoon. "From all the fire patterns, it is definitely looking like it was set intentionally, either from papers that were lit or an accelerant."

Earlier Friday, Santone said Erie police were treating the incident and the apartment building as a crime scene.

Santone said the fire was intentionally set in a first-floor bedroom and spread to other areas of the home. Residents were huddled on a porch roof at one point, said Erie Fire Chief Tony Pol.

"Everybody did a great job," Pol said. "We had to use a ladder to get a few people off the roof. The hardest part was that we didn't know how many people were in the structure."

Firefighters and police officers evacuated eight adults and a child. One woman was taken by medical helicopter to UPMC Mercy Burn Center, Santone said, while another person was taken there by ambulance.

Their names and medical conditions were not known.

"Most of the people had family members or friends who took them in," Santone said.

Two firefighters and two police officers were treated for smoke inhalation at UPMC Hamot and were later released, Pol said.

"One firefighter was helping a resident down the stairs when the guy panicked and took the mask off the firefighter," Santone said.

Santone said the building housed six apartments. He said one apartment on the first floor received heavy damage, one apartment on the second floor was partly damaged and the other four apartments received smoke damage.

No charges against anyone have been filed.

Staff writer Ron Leonardi contributed to this report.

DAVID BRUCE can be reached at 870-1736 or by e-mail. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/ETNbruce.

Copyright 2014 - Erie Times-News, Pa.

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