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Fatal Pa. fire ruled accidental

February 03, 2004|by RICHARD BELISLE

waynesboro@herald-mail.com

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - A fire that claimed the life of a Washington Township woman Saturday morning was ruled accidental and possibly involved a cigarette or candle, Sgt. Vernon Ashway of the Washington Township Police Department and township fire marshal's office said Monday.

Carol R. Ausherman, 46, of 11341 Orchard Road, died of smoke inhalation in the 10 a.m. fire in her home, officials said. She was the daughter of the late Joe Ausherman, a former Franklin County Commissioner and a Realtor.

"We ruled out an electrical cause," Ashway said. "The fire was consistent with either a cigarette or a candle."

There was a "fair amount" of both found in the house, he said.

The fire is believed to have started in the living room of the white Cape Cod home.

Investigators said more than two dozen cats died in the fire. Another dozen were taken alive from the house by firefighters. More cats apparently lived in a shed behind the house. Officials estimated as many as 50 cats were living in and around Ausherman's home.

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Eleven cats were taken to the Antietam Humane Society's animal shelter on Lyons Road near Waynesboro after the fire.

Candy Bennett, the society's executive director, said Monday another four were taken to a veterinarian for treatment. Two of the four have since been brought to the shelter, she said.

In addition, neighbors of the fire victim continued to bring more cats to the shelter Monday, Bennett said.

All of the cats appeared to be friendly, in good health and have been spayed or neutered, she said.

Bennett said the shelter had cages full of cats before those from the fire were brought in.

"We were full of cats as it was," she said. "These are extras an top of the ones we have."

She said none of Ausherman's cats can be adopted until the shelter gets a signed release from one of her family members. She said she doesn't know when that might occur.

Shelter officials hope residents will take some of the cats into temporary foster care until they can be adopted.

Anyone interested in helping can call the Antietam Humane Society's animal shelter at 717-762-9091.

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