The overhead doors of the Monsour Medical Center in Jeannette, Penn. has investigators digging deeper to find the real source of a fire. According to reports, the fire broke out Sunday, December 8 in the early afternoon, causing “moderate damage” to the general dock area. However, the Pennsylvania police fire marshal calls the finding “suspicious.” The medical center used to be a full-scale hospital, though it currently doesn’t have any electrical service in the area damaged by the fire. Jeannette Fire Company Sgt. Bill Frye says the overhead door had been forced open, which has them suspecting a break-in or vandalism.
Inside the dock area, furniture and debris were damaged by the fire as well as a wall that used to separate the dock from the emergency room. Some of the flames licked up to the roof. Frye says the fire was reported at 5:33pm and firefighters got the flames under control within ten minutes of arrival. It took another 30 minutes to completely extinguish it. However, what a lot of locals are questioning is why the doors were pried open—and what this means for the safety of other buildings in the area.
Fortunately, this fire was controlled before it had the chance to spread to the tower. The entire building is getting prepped for demolition due to neglect and deterioration. As such, and since it was a vacant building, firefighters were kept out of the fiercest danger zones. According to a city representative, Jeannette solicitor Scott Avolio, “From the city’s standpoint, this is the exact unnecessary risk that is an ongoing problem with that site. Each time this occurs, city firefighters and first responder’s lives are put in danger.”
Even though the property has been slated for demolition, it was recently purchased at auction by the Westmoreland County Land Bank. The demolition can’t happen until a $3.5 million lien is paid and lien holders Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. and the IRS are satisfied. Avolio says, “we are forced to be in limbo regarding demolition plans due to the failure of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. to either cooperate in the lien removal or to even have any meaningful dialogue about an alternative plan that allows the demolition to begin.”
Until then, it’s quite possible criminals, pranksters and vandals will continue to target the area, especially now that it’s clear the overhead doors are easy to force open. Since the rest of the building is in such disrepair, it’s no surprise that no upkeep has been made on the exterior doors, which seem too tempting for mischief makers to resist.