MERCERSBURG, Pa. —Authorities are investigating the cause of a weekend fire that heavily damaged the building that housed artifacts from Mercersburg’s dismantled Smith House.
A Pennsylvania State Police fire marshal visited the scene Sunday and might return mid-week, a fire official said Monday.
“We don’t consider it suspicious,” MMP&W Fire Chief Dusty Stoner said.
The single-story, commercial building at 211 N. Main St. has block construction. The fire was reported by a Mercersburg police officer at 12:03 a.m. Sunday.
“Coming up the street, I could see ... the entire street was full of smoke,” Stoner said.
The fire had smoldered for some time and filled the cavernous building with smoke, Stoner said. He described coughing and gagging when approaching the old tire and auto shop.
The first firefighters on the scene found a pedestrian door and a garage door.
“We opened both of them up to make an interior attack,” Stoner said.
A firetruck was stationed in a nearby alley to protect houses if the fire had spread, he said.
The building had multiple false ceilings in which the fire was trapped. Firefighters encountered thick smoke, a damaged roof and skids holding rocks, making it hard to navigate, Stoner said.
Since there wasn’t anyone inside the vacant building, Stoner ordered firefighters outside for their safety. He disputed claims that he orchestrated the removal of artifacts from the building to save them.
“I will not risk a firefighter’s life for personal property,” he said.
About 75 firefighters from 10 departments responded to the 40 foot-by-80 foot building that was divided into two large rooms and about three levels, according to Stoner.
In February 2011, the Smith House was demolished and its pieces numbered for possible reconstruction. Some historians believe the home played a role in the “Black Boys Rebellion of 1765” uprising of settlers, the American Revolution and the Second Amendment right to bear arms.