Whitehall Township house fire

WHITEHALL TWP., Pa. - The intense fire that gutted a Whitehall Township home last week may have been intentionally set, officials say.

Accelerant was found on the scene and an arson investigation dog hit on an area inside the home in the 900 block of Pennsylvania Street, said Whitehall Township Fire Chief David Nelson.

That means the blaze, which was reported by neighbors shortly before 9 a.m. on June 14, is being investigated as a possible arson, Nelson said.

A sample was taken from the scene and authorities are awaiting lab results.

The fire consumed the two-story structure and attached garage, as flames and thick, black smoke poured from the building.

At first, it was believed the homeowner may have been inside, but fire officials said he got out before they arrived on scene.

Authorities had said the homeowner was not physically hurt, but he was taken to the hospital, though they did not comment further.

The fire also prompted a discussion at the township commissioners meeting that evening about the need for more firefighters. A commissioner said the firefighters went into the fire without any backup, because they didn't have enough firefighters to respond.

Nelson agreed that the staffing crisis faced by his volunteer department continues to be a challenge, and is getting worse by the day. The department has two paid firefighters, the chief and the deputy fire marshal, and the rest are all volunteer.

The mayor said the township has looked at the issue and will continue to do so until a resolution is reached.

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