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Legally-blind woman sued for starting fire

  • TIMES NEWS FILE PHOTO The home at 562 W. Franklin St., Slatington, was one of five damaged by fire last March 30.
    TIMES NEWS FILE PHOTO The home at 562 W. Franklin St., Slatington, was one of five damaged by fire last March 30.
Published February 21. 2012 05:01PM

A Slatington couple who lost their home to a fire last spring has sued an 84-year-old legally-blind woman they say was responsible for the incident.

David and Janice Altrichter filed the lawsuit against Anna Weninger and her daughter Joanne Bailey in Lehigh County Court this month. The lawsuit says Weninger improperly discarded the cigarette that caused the fire.

The three-alarm blaze occurred around noon on March 30 on the porch of a home at 562 W. Franklin St. The home is owned by Bailey, and Weninger lived there, reportedly.

Slatington firefighters were called to a fire in two attached homes at 560 and 562 W. Franklin St. The fire destroyed the Altrichter and Bailey homes, damaged three others, and displaced 14 people at the time. No injuries were sustained.

The home at 560 W. Franklin belonged to Altrichter, a former borough mayor who served in that capacity from 1978-81.

Contacted this morning, David Altrichter confirmed to the TIMES NEWS that he and his wife filed the lawsuit.

"We feel bad about the lawsuit," Altrichter said. "It's the insurance company trying to recoup their loss."

The suit asks for more than $300,000 in damages, along with interest, delay damages, and attorneys' fees, said Altrichter, who added that he and his wife have since moved into another home in the borough.

"Janice and I feel bad about losing our home, but we have had so many blessings after losing our home that we don't feel bad," Altrichter said. "We moved on with our life, and have another house."

Altrichter said on the day of the fire that he lost a collection of local photographs, newspaper articles, and a larger pin/badge collection. The couple lived at the home since 1972, he said.

"The Altrichters have been here for 100 years, and we feel very strong about the community," he said. "Things like that are beyond our control."

As he reflects on the tragedy that occurred, Altrichter said he and his wife are grateful no lives were lost as a result of the incident.

"We're just thankful that no one lost their life, period," he said. "There were five houses involved, and everybody got out safely."

Trooper Michael Booke of the Bethlehem barracks, the fire marshal who investigated the blaze, told the TIMES NEWS this morning that no one was charged criminally.

"It was determined to be an accidental fire," Booke said. "It appeared to be attributed to an improperly discarded smoking material."

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