Fire Marshal: McCandless House Fire Blamed on Torpedo Heater

Contractors working on the home were "very lucky" to get out without getting hurt.

McCandless Fire Marshal Dan Stack said Tuesday's fire at a home at 8763 Wittmer Road started by a torpedo heater being used to thaw frozen ground.

"The crew renovating the home were using the heater to soften up the ground so they could make repairs to the foundation," said Stack. "Somehow, the gas line was compromised and there was an explosion."

No one was hurt, much to the amazement of Stack. 

"They were all far enough away from the garage when it blew," he said. "They were very, very lucky."

Firefighters poured water on the home to keep the fire from spreading until Equitable gas crews were able to shut off the gas about an hour later. 

Stack said the home would be torn down Wednesday.

That is good news to a next-door neighbor, Carolyn Harvey, who said the home had been vacant for four years, and workers had just began to renovate it a few weeks ago.

"I don't think they should have ever started renovating it in the first place, it had been empty for too long," she said. "We have three abandoned homes on our street out of maybe 40 houses. I think McCandless should tear down these houses and clean up the property."

Bruce Betty, McCandless Land Use Administrator and Zoning Officer, said officials have been aware of the problem of abandoned homes and have taken action.

"The Town has within the past year developed and approved an ordinance to address property maintenance," he said. "The need for such an ordinance is punctuated by the three houses Ms. Harvey is addressing.  The renovations at the house, which caught fire, were the direct result of the Town’s actions regarding the previously vacant house.  One of these houses will be torn down this year.  We have been working with the owner of the second house to have this house demolished."

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