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Fire destroys former alcohol plant

December 10, 2008|By JENNIFER FITCH

NEEDMORE, PA. -- Despite the efforts of nine fire departments, a fire Tuesday night destroyed a one-time alcohol plant that had been converted into a welding business and home.

The explosion of one propane tank at BB Express sent flames through the roof. The explosion of a second tank blew out the side of the building with such force that a door pulled off its frame, a fire official said.

"It was unreal," Needmore fire chief J.R. Sigel said.

Sigel described intense heat coming from the Belfast Township blaze, saying that warped steel means that temperatures climbed well above 1,100 degrees.

Mark Kazda safely evacuated his 3771 Pleasant Grove Road home when the 8:20 p.m. fire broke out. His nephew, who lives in a nearby trailer, also found safety after helping get two dogs out of Kazda's home. One of those dogs, a German shepherd, went back into the building during the fire and died.

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"Basically, the business was in the rear of the structure, and the house was at the front," Sigel said. The two-story home had an extra peak at the top that made a third floor, he said.

Sigel said Kazda, who could not be reached for comment, operates a welding business that works with windows in skyscrapers. The fire chief was struck by the number of beautiful windows in the home.

The structure used to be a distillery that made alcohol from grain.

The home and business were destroyed, but the nephew's trailer was largely undamaged.

A Pennsylvania State Police fire marshal was investigating, but Sigel said the fire most likely started accidentally in a propane tank in the business.

Firefighters responded from Needmore, McConnellsburg, Hustontown, Breezewood in Pennsylvania; Clear Spring, Hancock and Little Orleans in Maryland; and Berkeley Springs and Great Cacapon in West Virginia. They remained on the scene until after 2 a.m. Wednesday.

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