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NEW CASTLE Blazes destroy area homes



Published: Thu, July 26, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



At least two of the fires are arson. A third fire is still being investigated.

NEW CASTLE, Pa. -- Firefighters spent the early morning hours battling three fires, including two at vacant homes owned by the New Castle School District near the city high school.

At least two of the three fires are arson, according to Fire Chief James Donston.

Donston said firefighters were called to the two-story house at 321 Reis St. at 1:23 a.m. today. About a half hour later a second fire started just a block away at a larger two-story home at 222 E. Lincoln Ave.

Both homes are owned by the school district and had been slated for demolition. They are among the 15 homes the district bought last year to make way for a new city high school.

However, before razing the homes, the district was offering them to anyone who could move them to new locations.

The Greater New Castle Community Development Corporation has talked about buying some of the homes and moving them to an area nearby to create a small business district. Many of the homes in that area were built in the 1800s.

Safety concerns: School Board President Lynn Padice said this morning the fires and some recent vandalism at some the vacant homes has her concerned about safety.

Padice said she would consider having all of them demolished, rather than sold, to avoid having anyone hurt.

"What if somebody had set fire to these homes and someone had been inside," she said.

Padice said both homes were covered by the school's insurance policy. Both will likely be demolished as soon as possible, she said.

Donston said both were destroyed by the blazes and the roof had to be taken off the East Lincoln Avenue home to fight the fire.

The Pennsylvania State Police Fire Marshal is investigating both fires.

Occupied home: A third fire at 1:56 a.m. on the city's south side is still under investigation, Donston said.

Homeowner James Liskooka went to check on his sleeping 16-month old daughter when he found a fire burning under her crib in a second floor bedroom, the fire chief said.

Liskooka and the baby, along his wife, Patty, two other daughters, ages 3 and 8, and an 11-year-old girl who was spending the night, all got out safely, Donston said.

Donston said this morning the cause is not known. The blaze was contained to the second floor bedroom causing about $10,000 damage.




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