Penn Hills business hit by arson offers $1,000 reward for tip leading to conviction
Owners of a Penn Hills business who lost three storage trailers to arson are offering a $1,000 reward to anyone who leads authorities to an arrest and conviction.
Lynda Merola, 62, posted on Facebook Monday a picture of a sign hung at the entrance of Bill Merola Company that reads: “$1,000 reward given to the one person that supplies the information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person(s) responsible for the fire on 7/22/18 at Bill Merola Company.”
Those with tips are instructed to call 412-795-0357.
The July 22 fire destroyed three trailers owned by the insulation, plaster and stucco installation company. The business, located at 1927 Universal Road, rents trailers to people to use for storage.
Several volunteer fire departments responded to the scene after it was reported by someone driving by just after 10 p.m., Penn Hills Fire Marshal Chuck Miller said.
Miller said he ruled the fire as arson after it was put out around 11:30 p.m.
“We found evidence,” he said, declining to offer specific details because the incident is still under investigation.
Merola, a lifelong Penn Hills resident and wife to Bill Merola, said that before the fire, the lot housed 17 trailers that were rented to people who use the refrigerated trailers for storage. One was used by the Merolas to store personal belongings, she said.
“They did find a can of accelerant,” Merola said, noting that tenants are not allowed to store any flammable or toxic chemicals.
Merola said the $1,000 reward is worth paying if it means catching the person who did it. She said the couple also plans to replace the three trailers, which were uninsured for arson. She declined to disclose how much the trailers and items inside them were worth.
“Someone put firefighters’ lives at risk. We’re devastated … we don’t know who did it and if they’ll keep going. It’s just disheartening and scary,” she said.
Miller said there were no injuries and declined to disclose if he has any suspects.
ARSON IN PENN HILLS
There were 11 arsons in the municipality last year, Miller said. Of those, authorities made seven arrests and convictions. In 2016, there were 18 arsons and eight arrests and convictions. Miller said six of those fires were connected to a junior firefighter who was arrested after a three-month spree.
“(Arson) happens a lot. Most of the time, it’s more of a revenge thing,” Miller said.
Miller ruled a house fire on School Street the morning of July 31 arson. He said the fire was extinguished quickly and there was not much damage. Miller said the fire is under investigation but he does not see a connection to the Merola fire.
“There are countless reasons people do arson. The biggest reason is someone is mad. And another one is insurance fraud,” he said. “Sometimes it’s just some kids playing with fire.”
Dillon Carr is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Dillon at 412-871-2325, firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @dillonswriting.