Fire damages business

EBENSBURG – A Wednesday evening fire destroyed a Laurel Mountain Structures Inc. warehouse along Feather Street next to Martin Oil Co.

The blaze, reported about 6:30 p.m., occurred about one-half mile west of Route 22’s interchange with Route 219.

Once firefighters had largely extinguished the flames, Wes Kestermont, Laurel’s president and CEO, worked with a small backhoe for more than an hour clearing debris from the mostly metal building.

Much of the contents, he said, had been wood and tools.

Laurel is a log and timber company that also designs log homes.

Matt Rainey, deputy chief of Dauntless Fire Company in Ebensburg, said when metal falls on top of wood, it can trap the fire underneath.

“It’ll burn for days,” he said, adding the metal needed to be cleared away.

Jerry Burkhart, appointed public information officer for Dauntless, said when firefighters arrived, the building was completely engulfed in flames.

Because the roof was aflame, it was too dangerous to send crew members inside, he said, so companies took defensive and preventative measures to stop the fire from spreading.

Burkhart said a fire marshal had been called in because it was unclear what started the fire.

He said the fire was one of the worst in recent memory for Dauntless. Between 50 and 60 firefighters were on scene representing more than half a dozen area companies.

Kestermont’s wife, Tricia, said she was alerted to the fire by the Rev. Drew Walter of Singer Hill Grace Brethren Church.

Walter, who also serves as Jackson Township Fire Company’s chaplain, had just finished leading a singing-group practice, of which Kestermont was a member, and was driving home with his wife, Sherry. That’s when he saw the fire crews.

“I said, ‘That’s Wes’ place,'” he said, and called to tell them what was happening and to ask whether it was possible that anyone was inside.

He said Kestermont told him it wasn’t, and Walter said he was thankful, because the building already was engulfed in flames.

Tricia said although she’s still in shock from the fire, she’s glad no one was inside.

“Things can be replaced. People can’t,” she said.

Her daughter, Hannah, 11, said she knew there was some antique furniture in the warehouse that was to go in her bedroom but said she thought her dad had moved some of it earlier that day and it would have been saved from the fire.

Otherwise, she said, “it would be gone, and Mom would still be crying.”

By 8:30, only a few fire trucks remained as a crew of roughly 20 continued to help Kestermont clear out what was left of the building. The crews largely had finished at the scene by 10:30 p.m.

Working with the backhoe, Kestermont piled twisted metal scraps from the building’s front compartment.

Kestermont said he has insurance, but doesn’t know whether it will cover all of the damage.

For now, he said, he just wants to clear out the building.

Along with Dauntless, Cambria Township, Jackson Township, Revloc, Nanty Glo, Summerhill and Colver fire companies were dispatched to the scene, assisted by Ebensburg EMS.

Mirror Staff Writer Kelly Cernetich is at 946-7520.