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Wind, debris hamper firefighting effort in Austintown

Thursday, February 12, 2009

AUSTINTOWN — Evidence collected at the site of an early morning fire that destroyed one home points toward arson, the fire chief says.

The fire began just after 1:30 a.m. Thursday at 154 N. Turner Road. Assistant Fire Chief Andy Frost III said because of high winds from an early morning storm, the fire took about 45 minutes to extinguish.

“The wind just kept blowing,” he said. “It was unreal.”

Frost said downed trees and power lines all over the township caused by the high winds resulted in a slightly slower response time. “Our trucks were hindered big time by falling trees,” he said. “They had to back up and take alternative routes.”

No injuries were reported, and damage to the house is set at $110,000 — a total loss.

Frost said homeowner Charles Fields and his brother Harry Fields, who also lived at the residence, were not home at the time of the fire. He said neither man knows where he’ll be staying.

Frost said a cause was not initially known, but after firefighters spent several hours on scene investigating, it seems to have been purposely set.

“We sent a bunch of stuff out for testing,” he said. “It looks suspicious, like it was intentionally set. We found a couple spots of origin.”

Frost said it will take several days to sort through all the debris, and until that time nothing is certain.

“When we got there the second story was just gone,” he said. “There’s so much damage that it may take a couple days of going out there and digging the house out.”