Police say area man set home on fire

A Sunday afternoon fire at a private residence along Frankstown Road was intentionally set by the homeowner who attempted to barricade his property to keep police and emergency officials from entering, police said.

Edward Houck, 981 Frankstown Road, was arrested after officers found him outside the two-story garage in possession of a .38-caliber weapon, Logan Township Police Chief Ron Heller said.

Police are conducting a criminal investigation and said they do not know what motivated Houck to start the blaze.

Gasoline and diesel fuel were intentionally dumped throughout the detached two-story garage, Tom Sral, Lakemont Fire Department chief, said.

“The fire is under investigation as a possible arson,” Sral said.

Empty gasoline tanks were stacked on the garage shelves when fire crews arrived on scene.

While searching the house, emergency crews discovered multiple tires that had placed under the basement steps and set ablaze, Sral said.

The home’s heating tanks were punctured and spilled fuel was found in the basement, he said.

“It’s apparent he dumped fuel in the garage and house,” Heller said.

Emergency crews were initially blocked from the residence.

Houck attempted to use downed tree limbs and his white PT Cruiser to barricade the driveway of the residence, Heller said.

A backhoe that was driving on Frankstown Road at the time of the incident helped police push the vehicle off of the driveway so firetrucks could move closer to the home, Sral said.

Houck had nearly finished cutting down a second large tree by the time police arrived, Heller said.

Crews contained the fire shortly before 6 p.m., but smoke from the smoldering garage continued to rise.

The fire gutted the lower three garage door bays and heavily damaged the second floor of the structure.

Fire crews contained the blaze to the basement and first floor of the home. The second floor escaped most of the damage, officials said.

A row of pine trees shielding the house from view of the roadway was also chopped down, allegedly by Houck, police said.

The cleared trees would have given Houck a clear line of sight to the area of Frankstown Road where fire and police personnel were staging.

“We’re not sure what his intentions were,” Heller said.

Police recovered a firearm from Houck’s person and located ammunition within the home. Houck did not threaten officers when he was arrested, Heller said.

Initial scanner reports of entrapment at the fire were unfounded, Heller said. Houck was alone and found outside near the garage when police arrived.

Houck was transported from the scene to Altoona Regional in the back of a Logan Township squad car.

His status was listed as stable Sunday evening, Altoona Regional officials said.

Relatives of Houck who arrived on scene declined to comment.

“We’re very fortunate there were no injuries to anybody,” Heller said.

A state police fire marshal was called to the scene, and the fire is under investigation, Heller said.

Police closed Frankstown Road from about 4:30 to 8:45 p.m. to investigate the incident.

Mirror Staff Writer Zach Geiger is at 946-7535.