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Tamaqua fire ruled arson

Published October 23. 2009 05:00PM

Tamaqua Fire Chief Tom Oakie" Schlorf has determined the cause of Thursday's early morning fire that destroyed three row homes at 132-136 Orwigsburg St. According to Chief Schlorf, the fire has definitely been ruled a case of arson.

The homes were engulfed in flames when we arrived on the scene minutes after the alarm sounded at 5:30 a.m., said Schlorf, who lives a short distance from the site. "I could see the flames shooting into the sky as I left my home.The buildings were basically already gone. It became a fight to save the surrounding homes."

And fight they did. Somehow, firefighters were able to keep the hungry flames from devouring the Camerini home at 138 Orwigsburg St. That home is separated from the burnt buildings by a narrow walkway, giving firefighters a disadvantage as they tried to assault the flames from every direction. Siding on the home was melted by the intense heat and scorched by the flames. Despite that, the interior of the home only suffered smoke and water damage. A home across the street also showed evidence of the intense heat caused by the blaze, as the siding melted at 131 Orwigsburg St. Utility lines were also affected. Flames could be seen dancing on the electrical wires in front of the burning row homes at the height of the event. Electrical crews were forced to disconnect the power, affecting more than 100 customers. "Firefighters had to cut the lines to allow the department's aerial truck access to the buildings," according to Chief Schlorf.

More than 100 firefighters from the borough's four volunteer companies, Coaldale and Summit Hill responded to the blaze. Also responding was a Rapid Intervention Team from Pottsville. With plenty of man power, the biggest headache was trying to keep the blaze from spreading. "The firefighters did an absolutely amazing job of keeping the flames from spreading to the homes on either side," commented Chief Schlorf. "They were hampered by that narrow alleyway. I commend them for their efforts."

State Police Fire Marshall Trooper John Burns sifted through the charred embers with Schlorf on Thursday afternoon as they men tried to determine the cause of the fire.

The three desotroyed buildings are owned by John "Jack" Wassel and weren't insured according to the chief. All three were unoccupied.

The investigation will continue.

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