Fire

Second body found at scene of Lower Allen fire

2014-03-04T23:15:00Z 2014-03-05T14:46:56Z Second body found at scene of Lower Allen fireBy Andrew Carr, The Sentinel The Sentinel
March 04, 2014 11:15 pm  • 

LOWER ALLEN TWP. — Authorities say the second of two bodies was recovered Tuesday morning from the ruins of a house in the 1600 block of Carlisle Road that caught fire Monday morning.

Officials said the bodies, which are not yet officially identified, are believed to be those of Jack and Edna Bertolette, elderly owners of the residence who were unaccounted for during the fire. Autopsies are scheduled for today, said Cumberland County Coroner Charles Hall.

Hall said a woman’s body had been recovered Monday evening, though the search was called off that night because of visibility problems. The man’s body was recovered at 9 a.m. Tuesday when the search was resumed.

Neighbors reported seeing Jack Bertolette shoveling snow at 9:30 a.m. Monday before heading back to the house. A vehicle belonging to the couple remained parked in the driveway during the fire, officials said.

Fire

A passerby to the scene around 10 a.m. was able to open the front door and yell for anyone inside, but received no response, police said. Smoke and clutter in the house prevented anyone from getting any further inside, police said.

A Lower Allen police officer en route to help with a snow-delayed school crossing at Highland Elementary School was the first official at the scene at 10:07 a.m. and attempted to enter the building but was forced back due to the flames, said Lower Allen Township Police Chief Frank Williamson.

After quickly talking with neighbors, the officer advised county dispatch of possible entrapment of the occupants of the residence, police said.

Fire crews from as far away as Harrisburg and Fairview Township responded but were forced to take a defensive approach due to the flames and sheer amount of clutter in the house, Williamson said. Officials reported Monday that two floors had collapsed into the basement of the home and that no one could have been inside and remained alive.

“The fire was well progressed when we got dispatched to the scene,” Williamson said Monday night. “When the floor collapsed, it was so far gone, there wasn’t a lot we were going to do with it.”

Williamson said after most of the blaze had been extinguished, they conducted a search of a second-floor bedroom that was still intact. At about 5:15 p.m. on Monday, a female victim was discovered. The stability of that second floor was questionable, and a cursory search for the second victim was not successful, police said.

A private contractor was contacted and responded with a track hoe — a piece of heavy equipment with a claw bucket — to help remove the debris, police said. The contractor was extremely careful and dismantled the structure, removing the debris area by area, police said.

A state police cadaver dog was brought in to assist in the search Monday night, but the search was called off at 11 p.m. Investigators returned at 7 a.m. Tuesday and by 8:30 a.m. the male victim was found in the same second-floor bedroom under a large amount of debris, police said.

Carlisle Road was closed between Lowther Road and 18th Street for more than 13 hours during the incident.

Williamson thanked the local community, which provided information on the homeowners, offered to bring soup and warm drinks, and Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church opened their doors for a warm rest area and bathrooms.

Despite the cold temperatures and the intensity of the fire, there were no firefighter injuries reported.

State Police Fire Marshal Eric Keebaugh said the cause of the fire is still under investigation.

Williamson said Tuesday the fire will be classified as undetermined due to the severe damage to the house. Police say they are confident it began in the basement of the residence, but the exact cause is not known.

Reports Monday stated that a propane tank, which was on the back porch of the home, accelerated the blaze. Williamson said there was a small grill-sized propane cylinder “vented” on the back porch of the house, but it did not contribute to the spread or intensity of the fire.

Keebaugh did not comment on whether the number of items in the home contributed to the difficulty of putting out the fire or investigating the cause, but he did say any time a large amount of items are stored in a home, it adds to the potential fuel load.

During the initial stages of the Carlisle Road incident, a separate house fire was dispatched at 10:28 a.m. in the west end of Lower Allen Township. A car fire had extended into a residence on the 400 block of Bethany Drive.

Fire damage occurred to the soffit and roof of the structure. The residents were relocated to another cottage on the Bethany Village campus. No civilian or firefighter injuries occurred.


Posted earlier on Cumberlink:

LOWER ALLEN TWP. - Cumberland County Coroner Charley Hall said a man's body was recovered at 9 a.m. today from the home in the 1600 block of Carlisle Road. A woman's body was recovered late Monday night.

Hall said they have not positively identified the two people but they are believed to be Jack and Edna Bertolette, who owned the home. An autopsy for the two bodies are scheduled for Wednesday, he said.


Posted earlier on Cumberlink:

CAMP HILL - A second body has been recovered from a Lower Allen Township home that was destroyed by fire.

Officials have confirmed a man's body was found Tuesday morning.

The first body, that of a woman, was discovered at around 10 p.m. Monday night, 12 hours after the fire started in the 1600 block of Carlisle Road.

The bodies have not been identified, but are believed to be those of the elderly couple who lived in the home.

Officials have been unable to account for the residents since the fire began. Their names have not been released.

Firefighters could not get inside the home when they arrived because of the intense heat and flames, and the first and second floors eventually collapsed.

The cause of the fire has not been determined, but officials believe it started in the basement.

- abc27 News


Posted Monday night on Cumberlink:

LOWER ALLEN TWP. — With the owners of a Lower Allen Township home and business still unaccounted for Monday evening after a morning fire, neighbors took time to reflect on a caring couple who ran a vegetable and flower stand outside the home on Carlisle Road.

Heidi Marshall said she began visiting the home in the 1600 block of Carlisle Road and its stand when her daughter Mary was young. Now a fourth-grader at Highland Elementary School, Mary said Monday she saw smoke two blocks away from the home where she learned how to use money. Heidi Marshall said the owners of the stand, Jack and Edna Bertolette, were friendly, nice and patient with a little girl who was learning to count change.

The Marshalls in kind often went to the Bertolette’s for vegetables, as well as the annual pumpkin for Halloween.

Crews were called to the scene of the fire around 10 a.m. Monday.

As of 11 p.m. Monday night, the Bertolettes were unaccounted for. Lower Allen Township Police Chief Frank Williamson said neighbors saw the man shoveling at 9:30 a.m. before heading back to the house. The couple’s only vehicle was still parked in the driveway during the fire.

Police recovered one deceased victim Monday evening, Williamson said. He did not specify the victim’s name or gender. Police were still searching for a second victim, and a state police dog was sorting through piles of debris in hopes of finding the second victim at press time.

“At this point, we have not found the second victim, but we’re fairly confident there’s someone still in the house,” Williamson said.

If unable to find the second victim Monday night, police planned to secure the area and have search teams return in daylight, he said.

Members of the Bertolette family were still waiting on-site for further updates Monday night, he said.

Brendan Retallack, a freshman at Cedar Cliff High School, lives two doors down from the Bertolettes in the 1600 block of Carlisle Road, and he said the couple kept to themselves but still made special trips to bring over homemade fudge to his house.

Brendan and his father were home at the time of the fire at about 10 a.m. Monday. Brendan said his father saw the flames shooting out of the back of the home — something that worried both father and son who have previously seen propane tanks in the back of the house.

Brendan noted the couple had trouble walking quickly.

Brendan had visited the house once and said it was cluttered with stacks of collectibles on the floor, with a little path through the house.

It was that kind of clutter that Lower Allen Township Police Chief and Public Safety Director Frank Williamson said may have played a part in what happened to the house.

Fire

Williamson said fire crews were dispatched to the scene at 10:06 a.m. for a working house fire. One officer, who was on his way to help with a snow-delayed school crossing at Highland Elementary School, was the first at the scene at 10:07 a.m. and attempted to enter the building but was forced back due to the flames, Williamson said.

As fire crews from as far away as Harrisburg and Fairview Township responded to the second alarm fire, Williamson said firefighters were confronted by the sheer amount of items in the house, which prevented firefighters from gaining easy access to the home.

Williamson said firefighters ended up never stepping foot inside of the house because of the danger. He said by the time fire crews took a “defensive position” in fighting the fire, he said no one could have been inside and still alive.

The Cumberland County Coroner’s Office and Cumberland County Forensics Team had been called to the scene, but neither were able to approach the home because of ongoing fires and an unsafe environment caused by the collapsing building.

Williamson said most of the first floor collapsed into the basement, part of the second floor collapsed and there was also a partial roof collapse. He said the amount of clutter may have weakened the floors, which may have then caused the floor to collapse during the fire.

“The fire was well progressed when we got dispatched to the scene,” Williamson said. “When the floor collapsed, it was so far gone, there wasn’t a lot we were going to do with it.”

Crews were at the scene well into the evening Monday, closing the portion of Carlisle Road and using generators to power lights as they put out hot spots and dug through what remained of the collapsed floors to get to the basement and make finding the owners a first priority.

There was no ruling on the cause of the fire. Finding the second victim was the top priority Monday night, Williamson said, and further investigation into the cause of the fire will likely wait until that process is complete.


Posted earlier on Cumberlink:

LOWER ALLEN TWP. — With the owners of a Lower Allen Township home and business still unaccounted for Monday evening after a morning fire, neighbors took time to reflect on a caring couple who ran a vegetable and flower stand outside the home on Carlisle Road.

Heidi Marshall said she began visiting the home in the 1600 block of Carlisle Road and its stand when her daughter Mary was young. Now a fourth-grader at Highland Elementary School, Mary said Monday she saw smoke two blocks away from the home where she learned how to use money. Heidi Marshall said the owners of the stand, Jack and Edna Bertolette, were friendly, nice and patient with a little girl who was learning to count change.

The Marshalls in kind often went to the Bertolette’s for vegetables, as well as the annual pumpkin for Halloween.

Crews were called to the scene of the fire around 10 a.m. Monday.

As of press deadline, the Bertolettes were unaccounted for. Williamson said neighbors saw the man shoveling at 9:30 a.m. before heading back to the house. The couple’s only vehicle was still parked in the driveway during the fire.

Brendan Retallack, a freshman at Cedar Cliff High School, lives two doors down from the Bertolettes in the 1600 block of Carlisle Road, and he said the couple kept to themselves but still made special trips to bring over homemade fudge to his house.

Brendan and his father were home at the time of the fire at about 10 a.m. Monday. Brendan said his father saw the flames shooting out of the back of the home — something that worried both father and son who have previously seen propane tanks in the back of the house. Brendan noted the couple had trouble walking quickly.

Brendan had visited the house once and said it was cluttered with stacks of collectibles on the floor, with a little path through the house.

It was that kind of clutter that Lower Allen Township Police Chief and Public Safety Director Frank Williamson said may have played a part in what happened to the house.

Fire

Williamson said fire crews were dispatched to the scene at 10:06 a.m. for a working house fire. One officer, who was on his way to help with a snow-delayed school crossing at Highland Elementary School, was the first at the scene at 10:07 a.m. and attempted to enter the building but was forced back due to the flames, Williamson said.

As fire crews from as far away as Harrisburg and Fairview Township responded to the second alarm fire, Williamson said firefighters were confronted by the sheer amount of items in the house, which prevented firefighters from gaining easy access to the home.

Williamson said firefighters ended up never stepping foot inside of the house because of the danger. He said by the time fire crews took a “defensive position” in fighting the fire, he said no one could have been inside and still alive.

The Cumberland County Coroner’s Office and Cumberland County Forensics Team had been called to the scene, but neither were able to approach the home because of ongoing fires and an unsafe environment caused by the collapsing building.

Williamson said most of the first floor collapsed into the basement, part of the second floor collapsed and there was also a partial roof collapse. He said the amount of clutter may have weakened the floors, which may have then caused the floor to collapse during the fire.

“The fire was well progressed when we got dispatched to the scene,” Williamson said. “When the floor collapsed, it was so far gone, there wasn’t a lot we were going to do with it.”

Crews were at the scene well into the evening Monday, closing the portion of Carlisle Road and using generators to power lights as they put out hot spots and dug through what remained of the collapsed floors to get to the basement and make finding the owners a first priority.

There was no ruling on the cause of the fire.


Posted earlier on Cumberlink:

Lower Allen Township Police Chief Frank Williamson said heavy equipment is scheduled to arrive the scene of a fire at 5:30 p.m. today.

The equipment will sift through the rubble of a home that caught fire at about 10 a.m. The coroner's office is still on the scene.


Posted earlier on Cumberlink:

Cumberland County Coroner Charley Hall said as of 2:30 p.m. he is still waiting to view the site of a Lower Allen Township home fire.

The home is in the 1600 block of Carlisle Road, and the coroner's office was called out after the couple who lived there could not be accounted for.

Hall said the couple is in their 80s. While he would not confirm if they were still in the house, he said they are mostly likely there given that their van is at the home and the man was seen shoveling at 9:30 a.m., about 30 minutes before the fire, which was called out at 10:06 a.m. and reached a second alarm.

Hall said it is not safe for crews to approach the house yet. The upper floors of the house collapsed into the basement, which is where the residents of the house may be. Machinery is on site, including a back hoe, to dig up parts of the collapsed home.

Check back to Cumberlink as more information becomes available.


Posted earlier on Cumberlink:

The Cumberland County Coroner's Office is at the scene of a Lower Allen Township home fire, as of noon today.

The fire broke out earlier this morning and went to a second alarm, calling in firefighters from Monroe Township, as well as the West Shore.

The Cumberland County forensics team is also on site.


Posted earlier from abc27 News

LOWER ALLEN TWP. - Firefighters are at the scene of a house fire in the 1600 block of Carlisle Road Monday morning.

Emergency officials said the fire is between S. 18 Street and Lowther Road.

Drivers are asked to avoid the area.

Check back to Cumberlink as more information becomes available, and check out abc27's coverage here.

Copyright 2015 The Sentinel. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

No Comments Posted.

Add Comment
You must Login to comment.

Click here to get an account it's free and quick

Follow The Sentinel

A Closer Look

Some Midstate residents unhappy with FEMA flood maps

Some Midstate residents unhappy with FEMA flood maps

When Tropical Storm Agnes hit Cumberland County in June 1972, it left behind more than $40 million in damage.

March 22, 2015 7:00 am Photos

Photos

Related (3)

A Closer Look: Where's the money for infrastructure?

A Closer Look: Where's the money for infrastructure?

The Associated Press investigates where funding comes from for transportation projects, as well as alternative methods for funding infrastructure.

February 21, 2015 8:37 pm(0)

A Closer Look: Why Midstate bridges are failing

A Closer Look: Why Midstate bridges are failing

Sentinel Reporter Daniel Walmer offers a closer look at bridges in the Midstate, covering topics such as preservation, construction and funding.

February 08, 2015 8:00 am Related (0)

A Closer Look: Midstate police look at body cameras

A Closer Look: Midstate police look at body cameras

Police officers in Newville frequently report to Chief Randy Finkey that they are being recorded on cellphones by drivers during normal traffic stops.

February 01, 2015 6:00 am Photos

Photos

Related (7)