Two Houses Gutted, Neighbors Concerned

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

COAL TOWNSHIP -- Fire investigators were busy in Northumberland County Thursday after a fire ripped through two houses in Coal Township before dawn.

The fire broke out around 2 a.m. in a vacant house along Arch Street near Shamokin.

Jeffery McCloud lives in the adjacent home that also caught fire, but wasn't home at the time. He says he's thankful but believes this fire was not an accident.

McCloud rushed from New Jersey to his burnt home, only to see that it was too late. A fire that started in the vacant house next door spread to his home destroying everything.

"The house was full.  Everything was there, pictures still on the wall, furniture, clothes, the whole nine yards. Everything was there," McCloud said.

He is now staying with his son out of state, and wife who's battling cancer.  He says now he's not upset, but thankful.

"My main focus is, thank God that nobody got hurt."

Rob Fisher lives across Arch Street and watched the commotion from his front porch.

"The flames were up about 200 feet, so yes it was very frightening."

from PhotoLink

from PhotoLink

Photos sent to Newswatch 16 show just how intense the flames were.  Emergency crews had to break down neighbors' doors to evacuate people nearby.

"They slept right through it. They had their air conditioners going. They didn't hear all of the commotion out on the street."

Lisa Tinley who lives a few blocks away says the fire startled her around 2 a.m.

"I smelled smoke and I thought it was my apartment."

As crews work to begin repairing ripped cable lines, state police are looking into what started this fire.  Many neighbors say they think they already know the cause.

"An empty house with nobody there, there`s only one way that empty house -- anything that`s empty -- the only way that it can catch on fire is if someone has to set it on fire," McCloud said.

"I'm told that there were some cigarette butts around the floor in there and maybe someone was just sleeping over."

Investigators are working to see if any of these theories may be true.

State police investigators say right now the cause of the fire is undetermined but the incident is still under investigation.