Sutersville auto shop badly damaged |

Sutersville auto shop badly damaged

A fire in Sutersville early Friday morning caused an estimated $75,000 in damage to an auto repair garage, and the owner and his wife had to escape when smoke filled their home.

A dozen fire departments responded to a call at Perry’s Auto, owned by George Casoni, at 605 Second Ave. about 3:30 a.m. When they arrived, firefighters found the first bay of a four-bay garage on fire, said Michael Manley, Sutersville assistant fire chief.

Smoke had filled the home, which was attached to the garage bay the farthest from the fire, Manley said.

“It started so far away, we were able to hold it before it spread,” he said.

Manley said the cause of the fire has not been determined, but early reports indicate it was accidental.

Shane Swope, 30, who lives at 610 Second Ave., near the garage, noticed the fire after he and his wife, Cassie, smelled smoke and thought it was an electric heater.

Swope said he realized it was coming from outside, then went out his back door and saw the flames coming from the garage.

“The window was totally orange, and the smoke was pouring out of the top of the building,” he said.

Swope told his wife to gather their four children, all under the age of 7, and call 911 while he ran to alert other neighbors with children and Casoni and his wife, Nancy, who are the family’s landlords.

Swope said he didn’t think twice about alerting the neighbors, because he was concerned that nearby heating oil tanks or cars in the garage could explode.

“I’d like to think if we were in the same situation, somebody would get us up, too,” Swope said.

Sutersville fire Chief Mark Ghion said the Casonis, both 56, were asleep on the second floor when firefighters arrived.

They banged on the door and used a flashlight to alert the couple.

George Casoni heard the noise, stuck his head out of their second-floor window and quickly made his way downstairs with his wife, Ghion said.

They had no trouble getting out, but the smoke was heavy and it was difficult to breathe, George Casoni said.

“You don’t have time to react when something like that happens; you just have to get out,” he said.

Firefighters put out the blaze in about 15 minutes, then spent another hour checking for hot spots, Ghion said.

Casoni rents the garage space, which can hold up to six cars, to James Perry of Belle Vernon, who declined to comment.

Vehicles and equipment belonging to Perry and Casoni were destroyed, Manley said.

Casoni said the building may have to be demolished and rebuilt because of the extent of the damage.

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