EAST FRANKLIN: Seven area fire companies responded to an early morning blaze at the Belmont Complex and Arena early Sunday.
East Franklin Fire Chief Mark Feeney said the first call came in at 4:10 a.m., and his fire company was the first to respond.
Other fire departments who helped battle the blaze were Kittanning Hose Companies 1, 4, and 6, West Kittanning, Applewold and Worthington fire departments.
Feeney said Manor Township fire crews provided area standby coverage from West Kittanning. East Franklin Fire Department was recalled to the scene at 12:52 p.m. when the blaze rekindled. Fire crews quickly had the new blaze under control and were able to leave the scene before 2:30 p.m.
Feeney said the fire, which started in a 3,600-square-foot auxiliary building about 50 feet from the Belmont Arena, appeared to be electrical in origin, although the exact cause has not been determined. The state police fire marshal is investigating the cause.
The building was used to house a concession stand and locker rooms for local hockey teams, he said. Feeney said the building was a total loss.
He said the blaze managed to spread from the auxiliary building to the main complex by an unusual method — the phone lines.
“I’ve never seen anything like it before,” Feeney said. “But it appears that an electrical short somehow traveled through the phone lines into a closet in the main building and a blaze started there, probably from the heat in the wiring. The closet door was closed and the fire smothered itself out.”
Feeney said while the closet blaze in the main building did no apparent structural damage, the water and phone lines are out of operation.
“Obviously, they won’t be able to use the main building until the water and phone lines are repaired,” he said, “but it shouldn’t take too much to get that part back into operation. Everything hinges on the state police investigation.”
Feeney said the seven fire companies were on the scene for more than four hours.
“We returned to our fire department to do equipment clean up chores. Now we’re ready to go to our respective jobs Monday morning,” he said.
Armstrong County Commissioner James Scahill said the fire was tough to fight because it spread quickly through the roof.
“It’s like a ranch house fire … nothing to stop it,” Scahill said.
“The firemen did an excellent job,” he said.
“We’re lucky we didn’t lose the other building (the ice rink and offices),” Scahill said.
Contributing: Janice Heller, city editor of the Leader Times in Kittanning.