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No Cause Listed For Fire At Former Catholic School

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MOUNT CARMEL TOWNSHIP -- Investigators in Northumberland County may never know what started a fire at a former Catholic school.

The fire marshal says there is too much damage, and the building is too unsafe to go through.

But neighbors believe it is a case of arson.

Firefighters said it started around 11 p.m. Tuesday.

All throughout the day, people stopped by the former St. Mary's parochial school near Marion Heights to check out the fire damage.

"It was sad. It had some memories from when I was a child," Len Slovinsky said.

Slovinsky graduated from the school, and is sad to see the damage.

"We used to play basketball back here. Then it was a skating rink, then they had dances when we were kids. You know, a lot of memories," Slovinsky said.

Neighbors say the flames almost spread to their houses.

"All the embers were blowing this way. We moved our vehicles and then we just started hosing everything down, taking everything off the deck," Robert Reed said.

The fire marshal believes the fire started in the back of the building but ruled it undetermined because he says there is too much damage to safely investigate what caused the fire. But the neighbors that Newswatch 16 spoke with believe it's a case of arson.

"Judging by how that metal bent, there had to be some kind of accelerant or it had to be going for a while," Reed said.

"This is what happens when kids get in there and play around," Slovinsky said.

The fire marshal says there have not been utilities inside the building for at least 20 years. The former school has been closed since 1962. And now, even Olga Slater, who has fond memories of the school, would like to see action taken.

"I think it should be torn down. Fewer people and less problems," Slater said.

Mount Carmel Township officials say they plan to start the legal process to have the building torn down. Authorities say the building is privately owned, and a code enforcement officer recently made the owner board it up.