Officials rule M'ville house fire as arson

2013-10-21T19:00:00Z 2013-10-22T00:12:21Z Officials rule M'ville house fire as arsonDeborah Laverty, (219) 762-1397, ext. 2223

MERRILLVILLE | A fire early Monday that destroyed a vacant house at 916 W. 62nd Ave. was intentionally set, a Merrillville fire official said.

The two-story house fire was fully engulfed when firefighters arrived at the scene about 5:30 a.m., Merrillville Fire Marshal Phil Topor said.

"We believe the fire started on the second floor of the house," Topor said.

The house, listed as a total loss of approximately $100,000, had been vacant but there was electric service to the home.

Fire officials have ruled the fire was arson, Topor said.

A motive has not been established and lab testing will be required to identify any accelerant used.

One of the firefighters called to the scene suffered chest pains and had to be treated at a local hospital, Topor said.

Denise Kelly, who lives next to the destroyed house, said she was awakened and alerted to the fire first by her newly adopted dog then by pounding on her door.

"My little dog was frantic and I didn't know why," Kelly said.

Next she heard her neighbor and a Times newspaper carrier knocking on her door. That got her up and out of her house, Kelly said. 

Newspaper carrier Vanessa Hill said she and her fiancé, Tommie Shorter, were driving east on 62nd Avenue when they saw the house fire.

Hill said her first impression was it was her customer.

She said she and Shorter knocked on doors and called 911.

Occupants of the houses on either side of the fire weren't in any danger, Topor said.

Kelly said her house did sustain some damage including melting of her vinyl siding.

Fire officials are asking that anyone with information to call the arson hotline at 1-800-382-4628.

Callers can remain anonymous.

If the information leads to an arrest and conviction, callers can receive a reward of up to $5,000, Topor said.

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